Police hope for quick arrest of Mexican immigrant in Florida kidnap
A Florida sheriff expressed optimism Sunday that authorities would arrest the suspect in the kidnapping of a 13-year-old Florida boy by the end of the day.
Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells said the boy, Clay Moore, gave police an accurate description of Vicente Ignacio Beltran-Moreno, 22, which resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant and led authorities to the man's home.
"He was right on the money with the information that he gave us," Wells told reporters.
Police recovered the red pickup truck allegedly used in the kidnapping at the suspect's home in Bradenton.
Police said they believe Beltran-Moreno has fled Florida, but provided no information on his possible whereabouts.
The Manatee County Sheriff's office released two photographs of Beltran-Moreno. Police said he has short dark hair and brown eyes, is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 140 pounds, and goes by the nickname "Nacho."
Clay told police he was abducted at gunpoint around 9 a.m. Friday from a school bus stop in Parrish, about 30 miles southeast of St. Petersburg.
He was taken to a wooded area and tied to a tree, but managed to escape some five hours later, walked a "considerable distance" and borrowed a farm worker's cell phone to call his mother, Wells said.
After talking to Clay, police identified the suspect as Beltran-Moreno and set up surveillance at his home at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Wells said.
Sunday morning, they secured a warrant to search the premises.
During their investigation, police recovered a handwritten ransom note less than a page long, possibly intended for Clay's parents, that contained unspecified threats, Wells said.
"It was his intention, the suspect's intention, to leave Clay Moore tied in the woods until he got his money," Wells said.
Wells said he was "shocked" after reading the note, which he did not detail.
Wells said Clay "was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Citing the teen's ability to recall details about the suspect and where he was taken, Wells said "the bottom line is that the man kidnapped the wrong kid."
Beltran-Moreno, who is from Mexico, is believed to have fled Florida in the wake of the manhunt, Wells said. Police noted no activity during their surveillance of his house.
Wells said law enforcement authorities in other states, which he did not name, have been notified.
The sheriff thanked his deputies for putting in long hours in the ongoing investigation, but noted that "our work isn't over."
"We've just got the arrest warrant, we've got the evidence, but we want him," Wells said. "I think we do have a sporting chance to bring him back to Manatee County and have him stand trial for this crime."
Beltran-Moreno works in Manatee County as an aluminum contractor building screen enclosures, the sheriff said.
The suspect once worked as a "contract picker" on a farm near the wooded area where Clay was bound to a tree for several hours before his escape, Wells said.
That familiarity with the area helped the suspect maneuver difficult back roads without getting lost, Wells said.
During Sunday's news conference, the sheriff showed a photograph of the red Ford Ranger pickup truck now in police custody.
Sheriff's department spokesman Dave Bristow said parents should keep close tabs on their children, especially while the suspect is at large. Anything suspicious should be reported, he said.
"We're extremely concerned, [but] I don't think it's time for anybody to panic."
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