A Florida Keys man kidnapped a teenage girl from a Publix parking lot in Homestead Thursday afternoon so he could use her to get through the coronavirus checkpoint on U.S. 1 that was set up in late March to keep visitors out, police say.
The girl, 17, also lives in the Keys, and the man kidnapped her and forced her to drive to Monroe County because her ID and hurricane reentry sticker on her car windshield would be enough to convince deputies at the checkpoint to let her pass, according to the sheriff's office.
The ordeal started in the morning when the man, Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, and a MIchelle Lynne Peterson, 43, were turned away from the checkpoint at mile marker 112.5 as passengers in a taxi. Even though Sardinas lives in Tavernier and Peterson is from Islamorada, they did not have the proper identification or paperwork showing they either live or work in the Keys, said Adam Linhardt, sheriff's office spokesman.
The cab driver apparently dropped them off on the side of the road heading north on U.S. 1. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper saw them arguing and gave them a "courtesy ride" to Florida City, Linhardt said.
They ended up at the Publix supermarket on Campbell Drive, where they saw the girl near her car, which had both the hurricane reentry sticker and a Monroe County license plate, Linhardt said.
According to Sardinas' arrest report, the girl was driving from her father's house in Homestead to her mother's house in Key West, but stopped at Publix first around noon to get a snack before making the trip.
Sardinas approached the girl and said he would hurt her if she did not drive him and the woman to the Keys, according to a sheriff's office.
"Sardinas threatened to hurt the victim if she touched her cellphone," Linhardt said.
There is no indication Sardinas was armed, Linhardt said.
As planned, the girl passed through the checkpoint by showing her driver's license, which has her Keys address on it. She did not alert the deputies at the checkpoint that she was being abducted, Linhardt said.
"The victim told detectives she did not say anything to deputies at the checkpoint about the man in the car threatening to harm her because she was scared," Linhardt said.
She dropped Sardinas off at a gas station in Tavernier and drove Peterson to a CVS drug store at mile marker 92, according to the sheriff's office.
With both Sardinas and Peterson out of the car, the girl called a family member, who called the sheriff's office.
Police put out a "be-on-the-lookout" for Sardinas and Peterson. The FHP trooper who drove them to Florida City recognized their description. Deputies found Sardinas at mile marker 92 and Peterson at her home on Navajo Street in Islamorada, Linhardt said.
Sardinas is being held in county jail on a $50,000 bond on one count of kidnapping.
Sardinas has a long arrest record in the Keys, including counts of cocaine possession, grand theft and burglary.
Peterson, who could not be reached for comment, has not been arrested.
Linhardt said "more arrests and charges may be pending in this case."