One of Bradford County's "Most Wanted" Arrested in Puerto Rico
Published February 22nd, 2013
STARKE - After spending more than a decade on the run, a former state corrections officer accused of sexually battering two little girls finally faces justice.
Juan Oquendo Jr. was dubbed one of Bradford County's "Most Wanted" fugitives. But on Friday afternoon, Oquendo, 49, was finally led into the sheriff's office for questioning. The former Starke resident stands accused of sexually battering two underage girls multiple times beginning more than two decades ago.
"The victims have told us that this has been a long, ongoing incident," said Capt. Brad Smith of the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. He says the alleged abuse took place over the span of 8 or 9 years.
After the victims first came forward with the allegations against Oquendo back in 1999, a warrant was issued the next year. But by that time, deputies say he had disappeared, and could not be found. That is, until investigators received an online tip just a few months ago. "It was an email tip from another possible victim down in Puerto Rico," said Capt. Smith.
Deputies say Oquendo had been staying on the island with his parents, but they're not sure exactly for how long. The investigator who originally received the tip says it was very detailed, which led him to believe it was credible. "It was detailed to the point that they named him, and knew that there were two victims," said Lt. Gail Russell of the Bradford County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators are not releasing exactly how the tipster knew Oquendo. But with the former fugitive now facing multiple counts of sexual battery on a minor, they say the two original victims, who are sisters, felt relieved upon hearing the news. "I haven't talked with the youngest one face-to-face, but I've had a lot of conversation with the older one. And yeah, she's really eager to get this behind her," said Lt. Russell.
Oquendo was questioned by investigators after arriving back in Bradford county, but they say he didn't really tell them much of anything. Oquendo's bond is set at $100,000. He's set to appear before a judge on Saturday.
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