FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
POINT OF CONTACT: Lieutenant Neal Griffin, 760-839-4700
The Escondido Police Department is happy to report that the victim of an abduction that occurred in Escondido on June 10th has returned to California and has been re-united with his family. At this point we would like to share with the public some of the details of our investigation and how our department will proceed from here.
At 4:00 PM, On June 10, a 14 year old child was reporting missing from the city of Escondido, when he did not return home from school at his normal time. Escondido Police Detective Damian Jackson became aware of the report and recognized the name of the missing juvenile as the same person who was the victim in a case he had been investigating that same day. The actual offense in that case was “Distributing Harmful Matter to a Minor.” This case involved the minor child receiving sexually explicit photographs over his cell phone. Detective Jackson and Detective Jeff Udvarhelyi immediately began to work to determine if the two cases were related. At 4:00 o’clock all the Detectives had to go on was a fake name and disconnected phone number. Through their efforts, by 6:00 PM they had fully identified the suspect as Tony McLeod, a 36 year old male out of Tampa, FL. They had also obtained his new phone number.
Detectives began working with the cell phone service provider and began “pinging” the phone. They pinged the phone several time and established the suspect was moving north and he was in the vicinity of Los Angeles International Airport.
Detective Jackson knew the subject was from Tampa and he went with a hunch that the suspect would try to return home. The detectives worked with a number of different airlines as well as the Los Angeles Airport Police and determined a Delta Flight had departed non-stop for Tampa and was in the air. A check of the manifest was made and it was determined McLeod was on the flight accompanied by a minor child listed as Justin McLeod but with the same birthdate as the victim. Detectives were certain at that point they had located the victim and he would be landing in Tampa in a few hours. Detective Jackson contacted the Tampa Police Department and arrangements were made to meet the plane on the runway. McLeod was taken into custody and the juvenile was rescued. Detectives Jackson and Udvarhelyi and Detective Julie Barnes worked for 48 consecutive hours before they were ordered home for rest. They continue to work fulltime on this investigation.
It was the good fortune of everyone involved that Detective Jackson was the lead investigator on this case. As the EPD representative of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, he is a nationally recognized
expert in the methods of tracking predators through cyberspace and cell phones.
It is also important to note the family of the victim did everything right. They monitored their child’s activity on his cellphone and internet games. When Mom realized her son had been contacted by an Internet predator she immediately took the phone and also went so far as to shut down the internet connection in her home and notified the police. But this case stands as evidence parents cannot monitor the internet activity of the children too closely. When a child plays an online Internet game, that almost always will include chat room activity. Child predators troll these sites looking for kids to entice and manipulate. It is a sad reality in today’s cyber world but the predators go where the kids are.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has filed the following charges against McLeod:
PC 278 - Child Abduction
PC 288.4(b) - Meeting with Minor to Commit Sex Offense
PC 288.2(b) - Online Enticement of Minor
PC 288.3(a) - Contact with Minor to commit a Felony
PC 311.4(c) - Entice Minor to Produce Child Pornography
The warrant has been issued and the bail amount is $1,000,000.00.
The Escondido Police Family Protection Unit has worked continuously on this case since the victim was first report missing. A team of four Detectives and a Sergeant continue to work full time on this investigation. The team is collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and preparing our case for prosecution. We have remained in constant communication with prosecutors and law enforcement authorities in both California and Florida. We will now move forward with this case and prepare for a prosecution strategy that best serves the communities of Escondido and Tampa.