Investigator talks about role in finding missing Lee County girl

FORT MYERS, Fla. Private investigator Chris Knott opened up about a “horrific” case and his role in helping detectives find a missing girl.

Daniel Joseph Thomas, 54, of Bonita Springs, was arrested in May and faces two charges of lewd battery on a minor, kidnapping and cruelty towards a child, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.

The victim was reported missing in January, deputies said. The victim’s mother said her daughter ran away and left a suicide note.

The victim’s mother suspected Thomas, an old family friend, of aiding in her daughter’s disappearance, according to a report. The victim was nowhere to be found when deputies searched Thomas’s trailer.

The victim’s family hired Knott to assist in the investigation.

“I wanted this man to see me wherever he went, in hopes he would become uncomfortable,” Knott said.

Thomas moved around through Collier and Lee counties to avoid being captured. Knott followed Thomas and took pictures and videos of him, according to the report.

“They searched the trailer as best they could with negative results, later finding out she was in there, being held in a small compartment,” Knott said.

Knott was able to locate the girl on Feb. 26 on Anglers Drive, the report said. The victim was taken to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida.

The victim told detectives Thomas had lured her into his trailer home, forced her to do drugs and perform sexual acts, the report said. Thomas threatened to harm the victim and her family if she refused his demands.

Thomas turned himself in at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on April 30, the report said. He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 24.

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