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6 a.m., Feb. 22
Police say a 36-year-old man intercepted a 14-year-old boy on his way home from school in Escondido and absconded with the child across country, to Florida.
On Monday, June 10, the boy’s parents immediately reported their son missing when he did not come home from middle school, early that same afternoon. “The parents did everything right,” said Escondido police lieutenant Neil Griffin.
The lieutenant said the kidnapper made contact with the boy “through an online game” and “somehow enticed the victim to leave Escondido with him.”
Detectives determined that McLeod and the boy were on a commercial airliner bound from California to Florida and “local law enforcement officials in Tampa were notified.” According to Lt. Griffin, “Immediately upon arrival McLeod was arrested and the victim was taken into protective custody.”
The boy has since been returned to his family in California. “The family is very relieved,” said the lieutenant.
Lt. Griffin said he is in “constant contact” with police in Tampa, multiple times per day, and local detectives are preparing a case. “We see this as a case that will be tried in California,” the lieutenant said.
Suspect Tony Lee McLeod has being held without bail by the Hillsborough County Sheriff since June 11, 2013. He is described as a white male, 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds, on their jail website. McLeod has been charged with ten crimes in Florida, including kidnapping and seven counts of “transmission of harmful material to a minor.”
Lt. Neil Griffin stated that inappropriate material had sent to the boy’s cell phone, but could not confirm a certain number of images.
So far, Escondido police decline to estimate when the suspect will arrive in California, to face charges here.