Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'I'm just here to give little kids Barbie dolls,' said stranger in parked van

SPRING HILL — The cardboard box filled with dolls and toys sat on the passenger seat of Philip C. Klein's white and blue van as he waited in a Spring Hill neighborhood where children regularly walk dogs or play in front yards.

Around 6 p.m. Sunday, Hernando County Sheriff's Detective James Bettineschi approached Klein, 35, whose van was parked near the detective's home, according to interviews and an arrest report.

Bettineschi was off duty, dressed in shorts, flip-flops and a Harley-Davidson T-shirt. He said he had just left his house after a agitated neighbor had told him about the man in the van with the toys.

The detective said he identified himself to Klein as a law enforcement officer and asked the stranger what he was doing there. The Weeki Wachee man, unshaven with a long pony tail and a hat cocked to one side, looked right at the detective, Bettineschi recalled, and responded.

"I'm just here to give little kids Barbie dolls," he said, according to the detective.

As they were talking, Bettineschi's wife walked around the back of the van and wrote down Klein's license plate. Soon after, Klein sped away.

Klein later called 911 and told authorities someone had pulled a gun on him on Groveland Street. A deputy later stopped Klein at a Hess gas station in Masaryktown, and Bettineschi confirmed to the deputy that Klein's statements about being held up were untrue.

Investigators said they then searched Klein and his vehicle and found methadone and methamphetamine. Klein was arrested on charges of drug possession, filing a false report and driving with a suspended or revoked license. His bail was set at $30,500.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Donna Black said authorities have received reports of a man fitting Klein's description attempting to give toys to kids in other areas around Hernando County. That portion of the investigation is ongoing, she said.

Bettineschi, who has daughters ages 14 and 16, said he didn't consider what happened — and what might have happened — until later.

"After it sank in, it set me back," he said. "Maybe not as a police officer, but definitely as a father."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]

'I'm just here to give little kids Barbie dolls,' said stranger in parked van 04/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 8:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.