Suspect arrested in assault of 4-year-old child

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WILMINGTON, DE – The New Castle County Police Department announced Monday that they have identified and charged a man accused in the abduction, sexual assault and attempted murder of a 4-year-old girl on April 6.

Daniel M. Santucci Jr, 23, reportedly snatched the child as she was playing with her friends in front of her home in the Village of Plum Run, put her in his car and drove off.  He sexually assaulted her, then “threw her into the large pond in the rear of Banning Park” and left her there, authorities said.

About two hours after she was taken, the little girl was found walking near Banning Park by a passerby, about 8 miles from her home.  Officials took her to the hospital where they discovered she had been sexually assaulted.

Police reported that they arrested Santucci in Tampa, Florida on April 20 and brought him back to Delaware on May 1 to face charges in the case.  He was in possession of child pornography when they found him, although they said it was not of the 4-year-old victim.

Santucci already has a criminal record. He was reportedly on probation after being released following time he served for a string of burglaries.

A woman who knows him, Tabitha Merrit, told Eyewitness News, “I know he went to jail and recently got out like a year ago. I didn’t think he was like that, I just found out today and we’re all really freaked out. You feel like you know somebody and then you find out something crazy like that, and I just had no idea.”

He had staged a disappearance act and boarded a Grey Hound bus for Tama, Florida, where police him. The Elsemere Police had found his vehicle running and abandoned in the middle of the road on April 11.

In a press conference Monday, New Castle County Police Chief Col. Vaughn Bond said, “I’m extremely pleased to announce this arrest, though the truth is I’m equally saddened it happened in the first place. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the victim and her family, because their lives have been altered forever. Santucci did not care about the victim, or her parents, or what an incident like this would to to them.  He did not care about the fear he instilled in every parent and child throughout New Castle County.”

Santucci is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond, and is charged with kidnapping, unlawful sexual contact with someone under 13, first degree attempted murder, and possession of child pornography.

“We want to thank the victim for her bravery and her resolve,” Bond said. “We want to thank, again, the Good Samaritan who saw this child, stopped their vehicle, comforted that child, and called 911.”


H/T: WDE1 News

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