Deputies: Man tried to lure children with candy at Whispering Woods

Suspicious incident happened Saturday at St. Johns County apartment complex

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A man was offering candy to children at an apartment complex Saturday, seemingly trying to lure the kids in the parking lot, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said.

Detectives with the Special Victims Unit are investigating the suspicious incident, which took place in the early evening hours at the Whispering Woods apartment complex on Whispering Woods Lane, off State Road 207.

Three children, ages 7 to 9, told deputies that they were approached by a black man, who appeared to be in his mid-30s.

The man was described as 6 feet tall and weighing about 240 pounds with a buzz haircut. He was the passenger in a large, dark blue SUV with dark-tinted windows, investigators said.

Ashley Palmer, whose daughter was one of the children who ran from the man, said deputies had better catch him before she does. 

"If I find you before they do, you're going to be dead. So the best thing you can do is turn yourself in," Palmer said. "I'm very angry about the entire situation."

Palmer told News4Jax Tuesday that the last several days have not been easy after one of her four daughters, who are between the ages of 3 and 13, were approached by the stranger outside their apartment this past weekend. 

"She was downstairs, playing with the two neighborhood girls," Palmer said. "They went back to Building 7 where my daughter was playing at. (He) got out of his car and asked her if she would like a piece of candy and went after her and she took off running and screaming to the door."

Other neighbors also expressed concern about the incidents, saying the apartment complex is full of children. Some people even complained the gates are never closed. 

Deputies reminded parents to teach their children about stranger danger and what they should do if approached by someone they don't know. Palmer said she plans to do all that she can to keep her children safe.

"They're not allowed outside by themselves. My husband or their grandfather had to be outside with them at all given times, even the 13-year-old," she said. "They asked me, 'Why can't we walk home with our friends? Why can't we walk home from school?' This is exactly the reason why."

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Dave Rosado at 904-824-8304 or email drosado@sjso.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-TIPS. 

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