Original article no longer available
Palatka Daily News
by Virginia Wissel
Oct 16, 2001
PALATKA A judge ordered Monday that the suspect in the Oct. 4 kidnapping of a 7-year-old girl be held in jail without bond. Judge A.W. Nichols made the ruling at a pre-trial detention hearing.
Lonnie Chausse, 28, of Palatka, is accused of kidnapping the girl from the Wal-Mart shopping center. The child was reportedly at the front of the store looking for her mother, Christy Goudy of Interlachen. According to police reports, Chausse approached the girl and asked if she was lost. Witnesses reported Chausse then took the crying child outside to a van in the parking lot, according to police reports.
Lois Whitaker, a visitor to Palatka from Leesburg, saw the girl struggling by the vehicle Chausse attempted to enter, the reports say. Whitaker jumped out of her car and ran up to the man and the girl.
“I asked her if that was her daddy,” Whitaker said at the hearing. When the girl said no, Whitaker asked her if she knew the man. When the girl again said no, the woman grabbed the youngster out of Chausse’s arms.
Shortly after, the child slipped free from Whitaker’s hand and ran back to the store. Whitaker said she did not encounter a lot of resistance from Chausse. “He was not acting right.”
Two Palatka police officers who came to the scene testified that Chausse appeared incoherent and impaired at the time of his arrest. Patrolman Craig Mikesell said he spoke with Chausse’s wife who said her husband had “a problem taking prescription drugs.” Mikesell said she also told him that Chausse had taken “an excessive amount” of prescription drugs two days prior to the incident.
John Stephenson, public defender, presented Nichols with Chausse’s medical records showing that his client had been given prescriptions for several anti-depressant medications filled at the local Winn-Dixie pharmacy within the last 30 days. These included Paxil, Alprazolam and Wellbutrin in addition to Coumadin, a blood thinner. All of these drugs had warnings listed about interaction with other drugs and possible side effects. Stephenson said he was disappointed with the judge’s ruling. Nichols ruled to detain Chausse “to protect the community from the risk of his mixing prescription drugs and risk doing anything that might be a violent crime.”
“I don’t feel the man is guilty in that condition,” Stephenson said, saying some of the witnesses implied that Chausse’s efforts were to help her find her mother.
John Villeneuve, Wal-Mart employee, was one of the witnesses testifying at the hearing. Villeneuve went to the parking lot and brought Chausse into the store after the incident.
Villeneuve said Chausse told him he “didn’t mean to hurt the little girl” and “he was trying to get her because she was without her parents and he was concerned.” Villeneuve said Chausse acted like he was “under the influence of some substance.”
At an Oct. 10 hearing, Chausse said he remembered nothing about what happened.
Stephenson said his client was “regretful of the situation” and had not been taking any prescriptions since his arrest. Chausse, who has four children, has no prior arrests in Putnam County.
Several supporters of Chausse attended the hearing including his wife and his parents. They had no comments about the judge’s ruling.
One unidentified woman who came from a church group said of Chausse, “He’s always been a fine boy.”
Whitaker said after the hearing, “I just did what I hope anybody else would do for my grandbabies.”
Stephenson said the earliest trial date for the case would be Dec. 3 by the time formal charges against Chausse were filed, and arraignment and pre-trial hearings held.