Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Before he fled to Tampa, police say he sexually assaulted a girl in Delaware then threw her in a pond

TAMPA — Daniel Santucci Jr. took a trip to Florida after becoming the most wanted man in Delaware.

Police in New Castle County were piecing together evidence they said pointed to Santucci, 23, as the man behind one of the area's most heinous crimes. Detectives say the Deleware man kidnapped a 4-year-old girl from her home in the Village of Plum Run.

He lured the girl to his car, police said, and then he sexually assaulted her. And then, said the county's Chief of Police Vaughn Bond, Santucci threw her in a pond and left her there to die.

"Santucci did not care about the victim or her parents or what an incident like this would do to them," Bond said. "He did not care about the fear he instilled in every parent."

On Monday, just over a month after a good Samaritan found the girl suffering alone in a park, officers announced Santucci's name and charges in a media conference.

They also publicly thanked the Tampa Police Department — who arrested Santucci on April 20 in an apartment complex on E McEwen Avenue — and other agencies for their help.

"We are forever grateful for your willingness to step up and assist," Bond said. "Without you, we don't know we'd be standing here today, right now, making this announcement."

Some time after April 6, police said Santucci boarded a Greyhound bus to Tampa. By leaving the state of Delaware, he violated his probation for a burglary conviction.

On April 11, police found Santucci's abandoned car. They also got a tip from another local police department naming Santucci as a person of interest. Just over a week later, the 23-year-old was in handcuffs in Hillsborough County for his probation violation.

When a reporter asked Bond on Monday why Santucci was in Florida, he responded: "Trying to get away from Delaware."

Police wouldn't specify what ties Santucci may have to Florida. Tampa police spokesman Eddy Durkin said the department's fugitive apprehension unit worked closely with the U.S. Marshal's fugitive task force in arresting him.

He was held in Hillsborough County Jail until May 1. Shortly after he was transferred back to Delaware, police charged him with first-degree attempted murder, first-degree kidnapping, unlawful sexual contact with a person under 13 years old, and possession of child pornography.

The child pornography charge was unrelated to the April 6 attack, police said.

Bond said police were releasing few specifics about the investigation and were focused on building a strong case to ensure Santucci is prosecuted.

Santucci was given a cash-only $1.75 million bail, which he failed to meet.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

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