FLORIDA — Florida authorities were on the hunt for 3-year-old Madeline Mejia on Monday after her father told them she was abducted from their driveway by strangers. Now, police say, some of the details of his story weren’t true and the young girl was actually with her biological mother.
“Mr. Mejia was scared he would not see his daughter again so he provided the abduction story in hopes it would assist in recovering his daughter,” Apopka police said in a statement Tuesday.
Lester Mejia told police on Monday morning that he put Madeline in the car and ran inside his home to grab his keys, according to CNN affiliate WFTV. He said he heard her scream and ran out to see his daughter being driven off in a car with Texas tags.
Apopka Police issued an Amber Alert, and Madeline was found within hours in Tallahassee, more than 200 miles away, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Four suspects were detained, including the girl’s biological mother and her boyfriend, according to the police department’s statement. While the mother did not have legal custody, she did not take the toddler by force, the statement said.
When Mejia was interviewed again, he admitted to knowing Madeline’s mother had taken the child, the police statement said. He also told investigators he was at work, and not in the driveway of his home, when she was taken, police said. A relative called to tell him that the child’s mother had taken her, the police statement said.
In the follow-up interview, Mejia told police that when he called 911 as he drove back from work, he was told there was no crime if the child was with her mother, the statement said.
So, he made up the abduction story with the hope that it would help with getting the girl back, the police statement said.
Mejia told WFTV that he made up the story out of concern for his daughter’s safety. It is not clear if he will face charges.
The girl’s mother and her boyfriend were arrested and booked on charges of interference of child custody, police said.