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Father lied about abduction of 3-year-old girl

FHP trooper recounts I-10 traffic stop, recovery of scared girl

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The father of a 3-year-old lied to police about a stranger abducting his daughter from his front yard Monday morning, prompting an AMBER Alert. She was instead taken by her biological mother and her boyfriend, who are now in custody.

The girl was reunited with her father, who is the custodial parent, but he could also face charges in the case.

Lester Montes originally told Apopka police she was with his daughter was in their front yard around 6 a.m. Monday. The father said went back inside to get his keys and heard his daughter screaming as a man took her into a black Honda with a temporary Texas license plate, according to authorities. Montes told police he didn’t recognize the man driving the car.

FHP Lt. Kim Montes said the father jumped into his car and chased the vehicle from Apopka, a community northwest of Orlando, until he lost sight of it headed north on Interstate 75. The father didn’t have a cellphone, so he drove home and called 911.

State troopers recognized the vehicle with a Texas license plate from the AMBER Alert and made a traffic stop on Interstate 10 about 40 miles east of Tallahassee.

“We followed it to about (mile marker) 209 until we got some troopers behind me, and a couple FDLE agents and we performed a felony stop on the vehicle at the 208 mile marker,” Trooper Jessie Sunday said. “Guns, drawn ... you know, backup all around. (We) surround the vehicle in a semi-circle, call each person out, one at a time."

The four adults inside were taken into custody. Sunday said the child was safe.

“A little scared, but once we got her away from the situation, she seemed to be relieved as well,” said Sunday.

Two suspects involved in the Amber Alert abduction were booked into the Leon County jail pending transfer to Orange County to face charges.
Two suspects involved in the Amber Alert abduction were booked into the Leon County jail pending transfer to Orange County to face charges. (WKMG 2020)

That 18-year-old biological mother, Tania Duarte, and her 19-year-old companion appeared in a Tallahassee courtroom Tuesday. Both spoke through an interpreter and were told they would be held on bond pending their return to Orange County.

The two other people in the car were questioned and turned over to immigration authorities.

The girl’s father, thanked law enforcement when he was reunited with his daughter. Lester Montes has yet to be charged with a crime, but Apopka police say the investigation remains open.

While this was originally classified as a stranger abduction, those are rare. Fewer than 1% of all missing children are taken by a stranger or non-custodial family member.


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