A Florida caretaker is accused of kidnapping a former patient after her facility was shut down when the abducted woman’s sister died in her care.
Deborah Benita Hodge, 57, allegedly intercepted her former patients being transferred to a new facility on October 27 and took ‘severely disabled’ Dorothy Thomas, 23, into her custody.
Hodge was previously running a facility for disabled adults out of her home in Orlando, Florida, until it was shut down in August after Thomas’ sister, who was also a patient, died and an investigation was launched.
The state investigation found that Hodge’s group home had been ‘presenting a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of residents of the facility’.
As Thomas and others were readying to move from the Quest Training Centre to a new facility last Friday, the disabled woman ran to a car waiting for her in the street in what staff believe was a planned abduction.
Thomas was found the same day and taken back into care, and Hodge was arrested Wednesday charged with interfering with a guardianship and neglect of an adult with a disability.
Deborah Benita Hodge, 57, was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly abducting a disabled former patient from another facility
Dorothy Thomas, 23, who is described by officials as ‘severely disabled’, was allegedly abducted on October 27, but was found later that day
Hodge ran a disability care center from her home in Orlando, Florida, until it was shut down in August when Thomas’ sister, a patient, died in her care
The saga that led Hodge to allegedly kidnap her former patient came after she had also tried to gain guardianship of Thomas, with her request denied by a judge.
In August, Thomas’ sister passed away while under Hodge’s care, prompting an investigation that resulted in her facility being shuttered and all patients being transferred to the Omelda Home Care centre.
The patients were then transferred to Quest Training Center in Apopka, Florida last week, and during the process of checking them in staff spotted a maroon SUV parked nearby, according to an arrest warrant for Hodge.
The warrant said that because case workers often check in on their patients at the facility on a regular basis, the presence of the car was not given a second thought.
A spokesperson for the Quest Training Center told WFTV that the facility believes Hodge and Thomas planned the abduction beforehand, as they claim Thomas ran out the door willingly and was greeted at the waiting vehicle by Hodge.
Local reports initially claimed that Hodge ran into the facility and snatched Thomas herself, however this was disputed by the Quest spokesperson.
Searches for Thomas escalated when it emerged she had been allegedly abducted without her regular medication
Thomas was allegedly snatched from the Quest Training Center on October 27
Hodge, pictured in court after her arrest, is charged with interfering with a guardianship and neglect of an adult with a disability
Although staff members reportedly tried to stop the disabled woman from fleeing, Hodge allegedly bundled the 23-year-old inside and sped away.
The search for Thomas became urgent as it emerged that she was required to take regular doses of medication, but was taken out of care without her medication.
Quest reportedly told deputies that she had taken her medication that morning but was scheduled to take another on the afternoon that she was allegedly abducted.
Staff called 911 and an arrest warrant was issued for Hodge, on suspicion of interfering with custody and neglect of a disabled adult, according to court documents.
Thomas was thankfully found that same afternoon in Brevard County, around a 40 minute drive from Orlando, and Hodge was taken into custody on Wednesday.
She was seen with a shaved head as she appeared in court, however information on her case going forward was not immediately available.