*UPDATE: Kidnapping claims unfounded

UPDATE: New information from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Friday evening saying that the kidnapping did not happen.

A father comes forward, claiming it was his son who was kidnapped by a man on Thursday, where his boy was shoved into a car and took on a terrifying two-hour ride in Fort Myers.

Joseph Downing, who claims to be the father of the kidnapped minor, and his wife, Tara, said their boy left their home around 6:45 a.m. on Thursday to walk to his grandparents’ house down the road.

A half-hour later, the 10-year-old boy was leaving his grandparents home to walk to school. A few hours later, his parents got a call from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office that turned their world upside down.

Drawing of a Fort Myers kidnapping suspect. (Credit: LCSO)
Drawing of a Fort Myers kidnapping suspect. (Credit: LCSO)

“You always try to prepare yourself and your kids for any situation that may happen,” Joseph said. “But even with everything I’ve done, I wasn’t prepared for this.”

LCSO said the victim was walking along a sidewalk. Suddenly, a man leaped from behind a bush. The suspect dragged the boy to his car. Then, he drove around for hours before ditching the victim on a street off Martin Luther King Jr. around 10 p.m.

Joseph believes the kidnapper wanted to assault the boy, whom he claims to be his son, but maybe lost his nerve. “Yea, we got him back and we’re very lucky that he’s unharmed,” he said. “But it doesn’t always end that way and that’s all I could think about the whole time before I got to see him.”

Right now, his parents share tearful embraces. They are grateful that their son escaped the worst. But they want your help finding the guy who did this to their boy.

“We want to make sure this guy gets caught,” Joseph said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to help. Nobody should ever have to have this fear.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Michael Mora
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