Complaint: Kidnapped children bound with zip ties, duct tape

Federal judge orders Marshall Pendergrass held as danger, flight risk

By Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM, Ashley Harding - Reporter, Corley Peel - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal judge in Arizona determined Marshall Pendergrass is a danger and a flight risk and ordered him held on two counts of kidnapping.

Pendergrass, 47, was taken into custody after police found two children who used to live in Jacksonville and who were abducted from Texas held captive in the cab of his semitruck.

The 12-year-old boy and his 14-year-old sister told Winslow, Arizona, police that they were kidnapped by the Jacksonville truck driver and bound with zip ties and duct tape during their ordeal, according to a federal complaint obtained Thursday by News4Jax.

Winslow police were contacted by authorities in Belton, Texas, after the two children were reported missing one week ago. According to the complaint, the children were found in the cab of Pendergrass' semitruck and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Pendergrass, who the boy told investigators was a family friend, arrived in Texas on Friday afternoon, the complaint read. After the siblings' mother left them at home, the boy left the house to find Pendergrass.

The boy was under the impression that Pendergrass was going to give him a new iPhone. After the boy walked to a truck stop where Pendergrass was waiting, the two left and the boy believed they were going to a Metro PCS store to activate two iPhones. The boy was instructed to leave his current phone at the house.

Pendergrass then called the boy's sister, telling her to stay at her friend's house, the report said. Pendergrass and the boy picked her up, and they continued driving.

The children began to get uneasy after traveling for a while in Pendergrass' truck. At some point, the two fell asleep. When they woke up, Pendergrass told the two they weren't going home, but instead they were going with him to Nevada.

After demanding they be taken home, the complaint stated, the children had their hands zip-tied and their legs duct-taped. The boy also noticed Pendergrass was in possession of a firearm.

The children dozed off again at a truck stop about 75 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona. They were awakened by police knocking on the door of the truck cab.

On Tuesday, News4Jax spoke with one of the children's family members who lives in Jacksonville. The family member is extremely upset about what happened, but said the children are doing "remarkably well."

Someone claiming to be Pendergrass' family member, who asked not to be named, claims the ordeal is a misunderstanding.

“He doesn’t take people’s children." the family member said. "He has kids of his own.”

According to the complaint, Pendergrass told investigators he was a "guardian angel" for the children's parents, and he used to watch them during the summer when they were neighbors. He told investigators "they talked [him] into letting them ride with him to Sparks, Nevada."

Pendergrass told investigators he learned the children "ran away" from home, the complaint said. He said he planned to take them back home.

At Friday's hearing in Flagstaff, a federal public defender was appointed to represent Pendergrass. A preliminary hearing on the kidnapping charges was set for next Thursday.

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