A former Florida caretaker is accused of kidnapping a woman with disabilities after she was moved to a new facility when the caretaker’s group home was shut down, police said.
Deborah Benita Hodges, 57, operated a group home for disabled adults in Orlando until a patient died in her care, according to court documents obtained by McClatchy News.
The death of the patient, who was Hodges’ sister, prompted an investigation from the State of Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, documents say.
The group home was shut down on Aug. 10 after the agency said the home was “presenting a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the residents of the facility,” according to court documents.
With the closure of the facility, its remaining patients, including a woman described as a “severely disabled adult,” were moved to another care facility, Omelda Home Care, documents said.
Hodges had previously tried to gain guardianship of the disabled woman, but a judge denied the legal action, court documents said.
On Oct. 27, patients of Omelda Home Care were brought to the Quest Training Center in Apopka and were being checked in by staff when the employees noticed a maroon SUV parked nearby, an arrest warrant said.
An employee said case workers often check on their clients at the facility, so she didn’t pay much mind to the SUV, according to the warrant.
Then Hodges, who was driving the SUV, walked into the facility and grabbed the woman with disabilities, court documents said.
Hodges led the woman outside and to the SUV as the manager of the facility and other staff called out after her, the warrant said.
The woman with disabilities was put in the SUV and Hodges sped off, employees later told deputies.
Part of the woman’s care at the facility was regularly scheduled doses of medication, court documents said, but Hodges kidnapped the woman without taking any of her regular medications with her.
The facility told deputies the woman had received her medication that morning but was scheduled for other doses that afternoon, court documents said.
A facility spokesperson told WFTV they believed the kidnapping may have been planned because the disabled woman seemed to run out with Hodges willingly, according to the outlet.
Employees called the police and an arrest warrant was issued for Hodges on charges of interfering with custody and neglect of a disabled adult, court documents said.
Hodges was later taken into custody and the woman with disabilities was found in Brevard County the same day, WFTV reported. Information regarding Hodges’ legal representation wasn’t immediately available as of Nov. 3.
Apopka is about 20 miles northwest of Orlando.