Tampa Bay Times
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman Monday on charges including lewd and lascivious battery nearly a year after a missing New York teenager was found at her Brooksville home.
Kelley Gaudette, 32, met the 15-year-old boy in an online chatroom for depression, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Wednesday. On May 24, the teen disappeared and later told his mom he was in a community called either “Brooksville” or “Brookridge.”
A friend of the teen’s told New York police the boy had paid someone to drive him to Florida to meet with a woman he met online.
Two days later, in response to a missing persons call, Hernando deputies went to Gaudette’s home. She denied knowing anything about the teen at first but eventually had him come to the door, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The teen said Gaudette bought him a cellphone after they met online two months earlier. He said he was trying to get away from a verbally abusive situation at home in New York and that his mother gave him permission to be in Florida.
The mother said her son suffers from mental illness and didn’t have access to his medication.
The teen was taken from Gaudette’s home to an unnamed location until his mother could come and get him, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Gaudette said she viewed the teen as a son and denied any sexual contact. She said she was worried he would hurt himself at home so she offered him a place to stay, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
But text messages discovered by the boy’s mother in June and July showed nude photos of Gaudette, the Sheriff’s Office said.
In an interview in March with New York officers, the teenager said Gaudette sent him lewd images and they began a sexual relationship when he got to her home.
The arrest was delayed nearly a year because the coronavirus interfered with the exchange of information between Hernando and New York after the teen was taken home, said Michael Terry, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
“Our guys said that COVID kind of delayed them up there with that investigation,” Terry said. “We were waiting on a lot of that information.”
Gaudette was arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious battery, traveling to meet a minor, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and transmission of harmful materials to a minor using an electronic device.
She remains in the Hernando County Jail in lieu of $19,000 bond.
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