APOPKA, Fla. — The story an Apopka father told police about his 3-year-old daughter being abducted from his front yard Monday morning while he went inside to get his keys was all a lie, police said Tuesday.
Apopka police said the girl, Madeline Mejia, was actually picked up by her biological mother, Tania Fortin-Duarte, 18, and her boyfriend, Kevin Olmeda-Velis, 19, while the girl’s father, Lester Mejia, was at work.
Police said Madeline was found safe outside of Tallahassee before noon Monday in a car with Fortin-Duarte, Olmeda-Velis and two others.
Mejia had originally told police he’d heard his toddler daughter scream while he was inside his home, and then followed the car that took her until he lost sight of it on the highway. He told police he didn’t have his phone on him in the car, and that he returned home to Apopka to call police Monday morning.
That call triggered a statewide Amber Alert.
Police said Tuesday that none of that happened. Investigators said a family member had told Mejia the girl was taken without force by Fortin-Duarte and Olmeda-Velis.
Officers said Mejia told them that he actually called 911 while on his way home from work after learning that his daughter was taken. He told police a dispatcher told him that no crime had been committed if it was the mother that had taken the child.
“Given that information, 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,” police said in a statement Tuesday.
Officers said Mejia has lawful custody of Madeline, and that Fortin-Duarte did unlawfully remove Madeline from his custody. She and her boyfriend are both facing charges of interference with custody.
Police said the two other people who were in the car when Madeline was recovered were released and taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mejia told Channel 9 Tuesday that he did what he did for his daughter. He said he made up the story because he was concerned for her safety since he is the one who has always taken care of her.
Mejia said he is not afraid of facing charges for making a false report. Police have not said whether they plan to file any charges against him.
You can watch video of Madeline being reunited with her father Monday night below:
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