Fleet Peeples Park renamed amid sex abuse allegations

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Accusations that a well-known Winter Park man sexually abused children prompted city leaders to remove his name from a popular park.

Fleet Peeples Park was named in honor of Fleetwood Peeples Sr.  in 1985. Peeples was Rollins College's aquatics director and taught thousands of local children how to swim.

But since the arrest of Peeples' 76-year-old son Fleetwood Peeples Jr. for allegedly having child porn and molesting children, several women have come forward with accusations Fleetwood Peeples Sr. sexually abused them as children. 

On Monday city commissioners voted to change the park's name back to its original title, Lake Baldwin Park.

"Unfortunately Mr. Peeples does not have a chance to speak to us," said Mayor Kenneth Bradely. "The allegations are incredibly heinous and if so, would be prosecuted."

"As I got into the bed, I was wearing a little kid's nightgown," one alleged victim said. "He kind (of) put (his) hand up my nightgown (and) felt around."

Eleanor Crawford said her daughter revealed to her years ago that she had been molested by Peeples during an outdoors trip years earlier.

"I wish I'd had not sent her camping. But when I saw these children come back and they had such a wonderful time, I really didn't give it any thought," Crawford said.

Twenty years after his death, the allegations have come to light and prompted leaders to question the park's name.

"I don't think the accolades that were heaped upon his head were deserved. I don't feel punitive about it. Too much time has passed, but I think sometimes there's a point where the truth should come out," Crawford said.

Winter Park officials told Channel 9 there is no way to prove or disprove the women's accusations, but said, "Because of the number of people that have come forward and because of the severity of their claims, city staff believes the community is best served by returning the park back to its original name."

Crawford said she's glad that Winter Park is changing the park's name.

"I just don't think that people should continue to worship the ground he walked on, so to speak," Crawford said.

Katherine Sanderlin said the arrest of Peeples Jr. motivated her to tell her story of alleged abuse at the hand his. She said she hoped her story would  help other victims know they are not alone.

"That it could actually bring relief, a sense of empowerment, a sense of strength or just a sense of peace," said Sanderlin.

Residents who spoke with Channel 9's Lori Brown said they agreed with changing the park's name, if there was even a remote chance that Peeples' Sr. abused children.

"If you're going to be glorifying someone who does good in the community it should be someone who stands for what the community needs," one resident said.