FBI agents question kidnapping account

By J.D. Gallop

PALM BAY -- A 19-year-old man who told police he was kidnapped from a local gas station last week, then forced at gunpoint to drive nearly to Las Vegas, has hired an attorney after federal agents questioned his story.

Kevin Patton Jr. of Palm Bay was reported missing by his mother Aug. 14 after he failed to return home from his janitorial shift at Harris. The mother then filed a report Thursday and police issued an alert before learning that Patton had been found in Henderson, Nev., after a cross-country trek he said was directed by two gunmen.

"The police department at a high school out there found his car burned out, and he was located a short time later. He's apparently OK, but we haven't talked to him," said Lt. Richard Adams, spokesman for the Palm Bay Police Department. Patton was questioned by the FBI during the weekend, he said.

According to Greg Eisenmenger, Patton's attorney, federal agents almost from the beginning looked on his client's story with a skeptical, accusatory tone.

"They attempted to coerce him into confessing to something he didn't do," said Eisenmenger, hired by the family after Patton was first questioned by federal investigators. Federal agents did not return phone calls on the case.

"He wasn't being treated like a victim but like a criminal. My client was willing to take a lie detector test this morning but didn't because I don't believe they're reliable," Eisenmenger said Monday.

Patton, who lives in Palm Bay and was listed as missing and endangered because of chronic intestinal bleeding and asthma, told police that on Aug. 13, he was at a Chevron gas station near South Patrick Drive and Eau Gallie Boulevard when two men approached.

The two men forced him into his two-door 1996 Hyundai and made him drive west, he told police. Officers said Patton left notes at various locations, including restaurants.

"The notes said, 'I've been kidnapped,' and gave out his home number," Adams said.

Henderson police found Patton, who had some bruising and minor burns on his arms, officials said. Patton told police that when he got into Henderson, the two men doused the interior of the car with gasoline and set it on fire. No arrests were made and no charges were filed in the case.

Roberta Petticrew, who filed the missing person report, said she believed her son, who was to enroll in a Christian missionary school in the next few years. "He says they beat him up and tied his wrists," Petticrew said. "There's no way he did it. There's no reason to do it. Instead of looking at him, they ought to find out who did it."

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