A Delaware man allegedly abducted a 4-year-old girl who was playing outside before sexually assaulting her and throwing her into a pond, police announced Monday.
Daniel M. Santucci, Jr., 23, of Elsmere, was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree attempted murder, unlawful sexual contact with a person under age 13 and possession of child pornography.
Santucci has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained a lawyer.
Authorities tracked him to Florida after the girl’s alleged abduction from the Village of Plum Run in Pike Creek on April 6, said New County Castle Police Col. Vaughn Bond Jr. at a Monday press conference.
Bond, who called the alleged crimes the work of a “heartless monster,” said the incident has instilled “fear in every parent and child in New Castle County.”
Pending a hearing Friday, Santucci is being held at Young Correctional Institution after failing to post a cash-only bond of $1,076,000.
Found by Good Samaritan
The child’s ordeal began on April 6, at about 7 p.m. while she was playing outside with older children, said Bond.
Santucci allegedly began talking to her and lured her to a car before driving away, said Bond.
About two hours later, a driver saw the girl partially clothed and walking alone in Banning Park, about 9 miles away from where she was playing with her friends, say police.
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Bond alleged that Santucci threw the child in the pond and left her there alone.
After the driver called 911 and stopped to comfort the child, police took her to the hospital, where it was determined that she had been sexually assaulted. She was treated and later interviewed by a Child Advocacy Center staff member and released to her family.
Suspect Tracked to Florida
On April 11, New Castle County Police received information from the Elsmere police saying that they believed Santucci could be a person of interest in the case, Bond said.
That same night, police found Santucci’s 2013 Honda Civic running with the driver’s door open and abandoned in the middle of the road. Police say they believe Santucci was trying to stage his own disappearance because they soon learned that he had allegedly fled on a Greyhound bus for Florida.
Santucci was arrested in Tampa on April 20 for a probation violation stemming from 2012 convictions for burglary and conspiracy, say police.
On May 1, he was extradited back to Delaware, where he was held at the Correctional Institute for the violation of probation. He was then arrested on May 5 in connection with the abduction and sexual assault of the girl.
While investigating Santucci, detectives allegedly found that he was in possession of child pornography, but not in relation to the victim, say police.
At the press conference on Monday, Bond thanked the driver who saw the child alone that night and stopped to help her.
He also thanked the alleged victim for “her bravery and her resolve.”