Local News

Attempted abduction suspect could have been involved in other incidents, authorities say

AVON PARK - Highlands County authorities are investigating whether a man charged with attempting to kidnap a jogger may have been involved in other similar incidents, they said Monday. Angel Santiago-Velez, 37, 636 Barbary Loop, Avon Park, was arrested Nov. 1 by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office and charged with attempted armed kidnapping and aggravated assault with a firearm. Authorities believe that based on information from the intended victim, Santiago-Velez was driving a silver-colored Nissan Altima at the time of the attempted abduction near the Wal-Mart in Avon Park last month, Highlands County Chief Deputy Mark Schrader said. Deputies had received a report from a witness who saw a driver in a similar type vehicle with the same color following another jogger for 10 minutes, Schrader said. That occurred in the Avon Park Lakes area, he said.
"We don't know if that person knew they were being followed," Schrader said. "We have not received a report from another jogger." He said investigators don't know whether the man was just following the jogger and did not attempt to abduct the person or the intended victim decided not to report it. Schrader said investigators are hoping anyone with information about those incidents or others will call the Highlands County Sheriff's Office and provide additional information. In regards to the October incident near Wal-Mart, Schrader said good detective work and detailed information the victim provided about the vehicle cracked the case. After the victim identified the make of the car as a Nissan Altima, investigators obtained a list of that type of car registered in Avon Park and narrowed it down. A car decal the jogger described enabled detectives to find the car they believe was involved and its owner, Santiago-Velez, Schrader said. Detectives then talked to Santiago-Velez, Schrader said, but declined to say whether the suspect confessed. The jogger told authorities she was jogging around 6 a.m. near the Wal-Mart when she saw a vehicle following her, authorities said last month in a news release. When the jogger continued, the driver pulled up and ordered her at gunpoint to get in his car, the release said. Instead, the jogger ran to the Bill Jarrett Ford dealership at 1305 U.S. 27 N., Avon Park, the release said. Schrader said the jogger took the correct action. Another option would have been to call the Highlands County Sheriff's Office if they had a cellphone, he said. "We would rather respond and it just be someone looking for a house than not to be called and something bad happens," he said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834