Sheriff’s deputies rescued three missing children, who are from Ohio, in Beach Park Saturday afternoon and arrested a man for kidnapping, authorities said.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office received a call around 12:30 p.m. Saturday from the parent of a missing juvenile from Middletown, Ohio.
The parent said their two children, a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl, as well as a friend of their daughters, a 15-year-old boy, were all missing.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said the parent reported that one of their cell phones tracked somewhere in the area of the 10600 block of West Yorkhouse Road in Beach Park.
Dispatchers obtained additional information about the missing children from the caller and learned an unknown male driving a Ford Mustang left Middletown, Ohio with the children at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Friday.
Covelli said dispatchers searched an internal database and found Michael Negron, 19, of the 10600 block of West Yorkhouse Road in Beach Park, drove a Ford Mustang that matched the description of the vehicle that was seen in Middletown, Ohio.
Sheriff’s deputies began checking the area and located the Ford at a gas station in the area of Lewis Avenue and Wadsworth Road in Beach Park.
They located the three juveniles and Negron, Covelli said.
Negron was arrested and transported to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division.
The juveniles were all taken to safety at the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center.
A further investigation revealed Negron was communicating with the 12-year-old child for several weeks on Fortnite, Snapchat and other social media platforms, Covelli said.
Negron drove to the Middletown, Ohio area on Wednesday and stayed at a hotel.
It is believed he interacted with the three juveniles several times during his stay in Middletown, Covelli said.
He then left with the three juveniles on Friday and drove them to Beach Park, Covelli said.
One of the children texted a parent a description of the car they were in, which helped the sheriff’s office search for and locate Negron and the kids.
Covelli said it is unclear exactly what Negron’s intentions were with the children.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office approved charges of one count of kidnapping and three counts of child endangerment.
“It is an unfortunate reality, but there are predators among us who prey on children. Many of these predators use social media applications to initially meet a child and build trust with them,” Sheriff John D. Idleburg said.
“After that trust is built, they convince the child to meet. It is incredibly important to look at your children’s electronics to see what applications they are using, who they are communicating with, and what they are saying. I am so proud of my staff for working together to quickly locate and rescue these children,” Idleburg said.
Additional charges are possible, Covelli said.
Negron remains held in the Lake County Jail pending an initial court hearing Sunday morning.