ATLANTA – An 11-year-old boy was found safe Friday in Georgia, three days after he disappeared with a convicted child molester who had been living with him and his father in Florida.
"He is safe and he is OK," FBI spokesman Steven Lazarus said of the boy Friday evening. Police were searching for the man who had been with the boy in the same woods where the child was found.
Frederick Fretz (search), 42, picked up the boy Tuesday from his school in Dunnellon, Fla., police said. Their drive ended about 375 miles to the northwest when their car stalled on an exit ramp off Interstate 75 north of Atlanta.
The discovery of the car Friday morning triggered the search for the two. Emerson, Ga., police received a call when Fretz and the boy went to a store to buy a gallon of water and some candy, police Maj. Mike Powell (search) said.
Police found the child near a gas station less than 12 hours after the car was found and about two miles from the vehicle. "Two of my officers were chasing the suspect through the woods, and the boy was running toward us," Powell said.
The boy's father said he was going to Georgia to reunite with his son.
The boy's father says Fretz never told him he had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania in 1991. Authorities issued an Amber Alert (search) on Wednesday to notify the public and other law enforcement agencies once they learned about the conviction.
The boy's father had invited Fretz to move into his home in October after they served time together in the Marion County, Fla., jail — Fretz for domestic battery and marijuana possession, the boy's father for a probation violation on an aggravated battery charge. While in jail they realized that they had known each other as teens in New Jersey.
Fretz regularly took the boy to and from school because his dad has been able to leave home only for work and church.