A Fort Lauderdale man has been arrested in the rape of a 14-year-old girl on Tuesday in a backyard, according to police.
John Gardner, 33, is in Broward County jail, charged with three counts of sexual assault with a weapon/sexual battery on a victim over 12 years of age, three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim aged 12 to 16 by an adult, resisting an officer without violence, and violation of probation. Gardner also had an outstanding warrant for driving on a suspended license.
Florida Department of Corrections records say Gardner has been on probation since Nov. 4, 2016, first for a 2006 armed robbery, then for aggravated and fleeing law enforcement in 2019. That arrest report says Gardner zoomed through streets around Fort Lauderdale, sometimes exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph before crashing and skedaddling on foot. Police found a 1-year-old boy in the rear middle seat without a car seat or a seat belt.
He’s scheduled to be on probation until March 18, 2026.
Fort Lauderdale police say that around 7 a.m. Tuesday, two girls were heading to the backyard of a house in the 1000 block of Northeast Third Avenue that Broward County property records say is owned by the State of Florida. They were followed into a backyard by Gardner, who court records say has lived just over a mile away for at least 16 years.
They tried to shoo Gardner away, police said, and he said he’d comply. One girl left the yard, police said, “to find a way to safely get back inside the residence.” That left Gardner alone with the 14-year-old.
Police say Gardner pulled out out a knife, raped her, then ran from the yard.
With the help of Broward sheriff’s deputies, Fort Lauderdale police arrested Gardner. Police say he had the knife on him and said he confessed to the rape when talking to special victims unit detectives.
Anyone who knows anything about the case can call Detective Tiana DeQuarto at 954-828-6559, or, to remain anonymous, contact Broward Crime Stoppers, online or at 954-493-8477 (TIPS).