PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A New Hampshire man is accused of stealing a van with a nonverbal man in a wheelchair inside the vehicle before ditching it in a South Florida city, authorities said.
John Peloquin, 46, was arrested Tuesday on charges including grand theft of a vehicle and abuse of a disabled adult, according to the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
According to Assistant Chief Richard Del Toro, Peloquin allegedly took a Dodge Caravan that a worker at a group home left running as the employee, later identified as 65-year-old Ernso Oge, went into a liquor store on Monday, TCPalm.com reported.
The 55-year-old nonverbal man, who uses a wheelchair, was inside the van when it was stolen, according to the website.
Investigators circulated an image of the Dodge Caravan, according to TCPalm.com.
At around 4 p.m. EST, a witness noticed the van in the area, adding that the man was still in the back seat of the running vehicle, WPEC-TV reported. The man was unharmed but Peloquin was not in the van, according to the television station.
Del Toro said a detective found Peloquin on Facebook and sent him a private message, according to TCPalm.com.
“At first the suspect pretended not to know what was going on, what incident he was talking about, wanting to know if the detective was a police officer,” Del Toro told reporters, adding that the detective sent a photo of himself in uniform and told the man that “this isn’t a game, we need to talk about what happened.”
Detectives said Peloquin allegedly stole the vehicle in an attempt to return to a church in New Hampshire, WPTV reported.
“He stole the vehicle to drive to this church, and while driving to the church, he realized there’s somebody in the back here, and ‘This isn’t working out the way I thought’,” Del Toro told reporters.
Del Toro said the detectives met with Peloquin in Port Salerno, where he was taken into custody, according to WPEC.
Oge was arrested on a charge related to abuse of an elderly or disabled adult without great harm, TCPalm.com reported.
“(Oge) was responsible for a disabled adult, left the gentleman in the vehicle running unattended,” Del Toro told reporters. “Going into a liquor store is not what I would consider a stop that has to happen.”
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