Apopka father made up story about 3-year-old daughter’s abduction after girl’s mother took her, police say


The father who claimed his 3-year-old daughter was snatched from their Apopka home Monday — the kidnappers getting away from him only after a highway chase across counties — actually made up the story after learning the girl’s mother had taken her while he was at work, police said Tuesday.

In a statement, spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Walsh said the man, Lester Mejia, was “not completely forthcoming” when he told police his daughter was taken from his front yard Monday morning by someone in a black car prompting an AMBER Alert and a search that stretched into the Panhandle.

After the girl was found safe by authorities later that morning, Mejia was re-interviewed by detectives and told them he knew the girl had been taken by her mother, Tania Fortin-Duarte, after a relative contacted with him while he was at work and told him, Walsh said. He said he called 911, but was told by a dispatcher there was “no crime if the mother has the child,” Walsh said.


“Mr. Mejia was scared he would not see his daughter again so he provided the abduction story in hopes it would assist in recovering his daughter,” Walsh said.

Mejia initially told authorities he was outside his  house Monday morning about 6 a.m. with his daughter, Madeline Mejia, and ran inside to grab his keys, when he heard screaming, police said. He came back out and saw a man take Madeline into a black Honda Accord and drive off, he told police….

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