NY rape suspect made news as missing boy in 1990s

A 23-year-old man accused of raping an upstate New York girl was the subject of a missing child case that received national attention in the 1990s, including getting his photograph taken with President Bill Clinton at the White House, authorities said Thursday.

Adam Croote's tangled past includes his father killing his mother, his abduction by a grandmother and a sex crime conviction in Massachusetts. He was charged Monday with attacking a 10-year-old girl he was babysitting at a home in Berne, near Albany, said Albany County Under Sheriff Craig Apple.

He pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, rape and other counts. A message left for Croote's lawyer, James Milstein of the county Public Defender's Office, was not returned.

Croote knew the girl's family, who asked if he could watch the child after she arrived home from school Monday afternoon, Apple said. Croote is accused of raping the girl and trying to strangle her and break her neck after she screamed, Apple said.

The girl managed to break free and ran out of the house, Apple said.

Croote's arrest was first reported Thursday by the Times Union of Albany. The girl was treated at a hospital and released, according to the newspaper.

Local police were aware of Croote's personal history, including a sex crime conviction in neighboring Massachusetts, Apple said.

"Since he was a sex offender, we knew who he was, what he was, where he was," Apple told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We just prayed that he didn't re-offend. There is only so much we can do."

Croote's past is rife with crime.

In 1990, when Croote was 2 years old, his father, an Army soldier, killed Croote's pregnant mother in Hinesville, Ga.

Pvt. Michael Croote shot Wendy Croote, 24, near the Army base where he was stationed. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and killing a fetus and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.

In 1992, Croote's maternal grandmother abducted him from his other grandmother, who was living at the time near Albany. The maternal grandmother, Margaret Zibura, and her husband, Frank, lived under assumed names with the boy for three years in Mildred, Kan. The couple was arrested by the FBI in 1995.

After the Ziburas took off with Adam, a New York court granted legal guardianship to his paternal grandmother, Linda Koerner of Westerlo, near Berne.

At age 7 in 1996, he was photographed with Clinton at the signing of an executive order to set aside space in every federal building for posting pictures of missing children.

Croote spent much of his teenage years living in group homes or residential schools in New England and the South.

While in Massachusetts in 2005, he sexually assaulted a female employee of a residential school in Wendell.

The attack happened while he was being taken to a doctor's appointment in a van, according to a story in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. Croote caused the vehicle to crash by grabbing the wheel and steering it into a stone wall, the newspaper said.

Croote was convicted of forcible sexual contact.

He returned to the Albany area four years ago, Apple said, and was arrested about two years later when he failed to register as a convicted sex offender. He later registered.

Croote was being held Thursday without bail at the Albany County Jail on charges of attempted second-degree murder, rape, criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, forcible touching and criminal obstruction of breathing. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday, a spokeswoman for the county district attorney said.