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DNA match prompts arrest in attempted abduction, sheriff says

Sheriff: Clay County investigators get 'win for Northeast Florida' with arrest

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FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – A DNA match to a bottle found at the scene of an attempted kidnapping earlier this year led Clay County investigators to make an arrest eight months later.

John Keen, 36, is accused of attempting to abduct a 16-year-old girl at gunpoint April 27 in the Eagle Harbor development in Fleming Island.

Sheriff Darryl Daniels said at a news conference announcing Keen's arrest that the victim, who was very helpful in the investigation, picked Keen out of a photo lineup in seconds.

Keen, who lives in St. Augustine, was arrested in St. Johns County on the Clay County warrant and is being held on $500,000 bond. He is charged with attempted armed kidnapping.

Keen made his first appearance before a judge Thursday morning and will be back in court Jan. 16.

VIDEO: Arrest made in attempted abduction, sheriff says

According to the Sheriff's Office, the girl told investigators she was jogging on Eagle Creek Drive near Old Hard Road about 10:20 a.m. April 27 and saw a man on the side of the road. She said that when she came back by, he stopped her, brandished a handgun and made it clear he wanted her to get into his truck. 

Deputies said the teen screamed and ran and saw a FedEx delivery driver nearby. She ran toward him, trying to get his attention, and he called 911. The man in the truck drove off.

The Sheriff's Office released a sketch of the man the girl saw and said he was in a white pickup truck with large mud tires. The truck turned out to be a four-door Chevy Silverado, Daniels said.

He said a bottle found near the ruts left when the truck sped off was processed and came back with DNA on Oct. 22, but the investigation stalled until a few days ago, when Keen's DNA turned up in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's database.

According to court records, Keen has prior arrests in St. Johns County on suspicion of domestic battery (twice) and violating a domestic violence injunction. Court records show two women took out temporary injunctions against him. 

Once authorities had the DNA match, other evidence, including cellphone locations and the photo lineup, confirmed Keen's connection to the incident, Daniels said.

"There was a very thorough line of interrogation. But he -- I wouldn’t say was cooperative -- but by his admissions on certain questions, it placed him right there at the scene," Daniels said. "It's a win for the Sheriff's Office -- it's a win for Northeast Florida -- to get these guys off the street."

He said it's possible other victims had similar encounters with Keen.

"Normally there's some kind of lead-up in a criminal background to push them to make (this leap)," Daniels said.

He said he's hopeful Keen's face being out in the public might prompt others to come forward, if there are other victims.

The FedEx driver who intervened for the girl was at the news conference Wednesday and received grateful handshakes from deputies for putting himself in harm's way for the teen.

Keen's first appearance before a judge will be Thursday morning. 

When News4Jax stopped by his home on Wednesday, no one was home. But neighbors and acquaintances, who said Keen is better known by his middle name Albert, were shocked by his arrest.

About the Authors:

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

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.