Florida kidnapping: 11-year-old girl's determination to fight helped foil abduction attempt

ByABC7.com staff via KABC logo
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
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Video footage from multiple cameras in the area helped catch a suspect within hours after he allegedly tried to kidnap an 11-year-old girl in Florida.

WEST PENSACOLA, Fla. (KABC) -- A man who allegedly tried to kidnap an 11-year-old girl from a school-bus stop in Florida was identified and caught within hours thanks to multiple pieces of video footage that were found and quickly reviewed by investigators.

Officials also credited the young girl for fighting off her 250-pound attacker, even though he was armed with a knife.

"Had this 11-year-old victim not thought to fight, and to fight and to just never give up, then this could've ended terribly," said Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons.

The suspect, identified as Jared Paul Stanga, 30, of Pensacola, has an extensive criminal history. Officials say he is now facing charges of kidnapping, aggravated assaulted and battery.

The incident happened Tuesday just before 7 a.m. An 11-year-old girl was waiting for her school bus in West Pensacola when a man drove up in a white SUV, grabbed her around the neck and tried to pull her away.

She kicked and fought and they fell to the ground in the struggle. Soon he gave up, ran back to his SUV and drove off.

Florida man tries to kidnap 11-year-old girl at bus stop

The girl went home and her mother immediately called 911.

From there, an investigative report released by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office details how detectives were quickly able to piece together what happened and track down the suspect, using video from multiple cameras and eventually finding footage that displayed his license plate.

They also noted that the girl was playing with toy blue slime at the bus stop and when they interviewed Stanga, he had some blue coloring on his arm.

One resident in the neighborhood provided clear video of the attack and kidnapping attempt from a camera at his home. Footage retrieved from other cameras in the area helped detectives follow the path of the white SUV as it drove through the neighborhood, stopped at a local store, and headed out to a nearby highway.

A highway camera captured his license plate and investigators were able to trace it to Stanga, who lives less than three miles from the abduction site.

Detectives say just minutes after the failed abduction, Stanga texted his boss at work, indicating he would be late that day because he had to take his child to school. The supervisor later told detectives he thought that was odd because he believed Stanga's child was attending classes virtually from home.

When he arrived at work later that morning, his coworkers also thought he was acting strange because he was taking repeated calls from his wife in private, when he normally talks to her in front of them, detectives said.

When detectives interviewed Stanga, they saw the chrome bumper of his SUV, a 2016 Dodge Journey, had recently been painted with black spray paint. They also noted that his arm had blue coloring on it consistent with the blue slime that the victim had been playing with at the bus stop.

Stanga was arrested and booked about 10 hours after the morning incident and was being held on no bond pending a court appearance on June 10.