Clay County deputies debunk claims of tainted Halloween candy

Investigators working with prosecutors to determine if charges will be filed

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff's Office has discredited reports that someone tampered with Halloween candy given to trick-or-treaters in a Middleburg neighborhood last week.

The news comes days after deputies began investigating a total of three complaints about altered treats, including a mother who said she found needles in her children's candy bars.

That complaint and two subsequent reports were ruled unfounded.

"During our investigative measures, we have learned that all allegations were falsified and that no candy had been tampered with," said Asst. Chief Chris Padgett.

Padgett said investigators are working with the State Attorney's Office to determine if any charges would be filed as a result of the false allegations, which were the source of "great community concern."

The investigation began Thursday after a parent posted several images on Facebook showing needles protruding from a Kit Kat and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

In response to the initial report, deputies went door-to-door handing out notices to parents warning them to inspect their candy for any signs it had been tampered with.

The investigation led deputies to the Pine Ridge Plantation subdivision in Middleburg, where investigators initially believed the tainted candy may have come from.

Padgett said the woman who made the initial report is not the person facing potential charges in the case. He said she acted in "good faith" in response to information given to her by someone else.

Reached at home Monday, a 14-year-old girl identified as the woman's niece confessed to making the whole story up. The teen told News4Jax she panicked once police got involved.

"I regret it. I really do. I feel guilty for anyone I have scared, especially in that neighborhood," the teen said. "To all the people I’ve scared and my aunt especially, this is probably something you can’t forgive me for but I’ll try to do my best to make it up to people."

The girl's aunt said she was not only disappointed, but also hurt because the complaint made her look like a "fool and a liar."

"I really was legitimately scared and I didn't know that it was a lie and everyone is calling me a liar, and it hurt me that she did that to me," she said. "And now I'm worried about what my employers will think."

A Pine Ridge Plantation resident named Torri said the investigation had a huge impact on the community. 

"Parents were not sure what to do with the candy the next morning and ended up throwing it away," she said. "So, as a community, one of our residents got on Facebook and came up with a great idea to do a trunk-or-treat for the children affected in Pine Ridge."

Torri said the Halloween "do-over" for the community will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Amenity Center. 

About the Authors:

While growing up in Jacksonville, Kristen dreaming of being a reporter at Channel 4. For the last several years, that's been my reality.

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.