A Florida caregiver has been accused of kidnapping a former patient after her facility closed when the kidnapped woman’s sister died in her care.
Deborah Benita Hodge, 57, allegedly intercepted her former patients who had been transferred to a new facility on October 27 and took ‘severely disabled’ Dorothy Thomas, 23, under her care.
Hodge previously ran a facility for disabled adults from her home in Orlando, Florida, until it closed in August after Thomas’ sister, who was also a patient, died and an investigation was launched.
The state investigation found that Hodge’s group home “posed a danger to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of the facility.”
As Thomas and others prepared to move from the Quest Training Center to a new facility last Friday, the disabled woman ran to a car waiting for her on the street, in what staff said was a planned kidnapping.
Thomas was found and returned to custody the same day, and Hodge was arrested Wednesday on charges of interfering with the custody and neglect of an adult with a disability.
Deborah Benita Hodge, 57, was arrested Wednesday after allegedly kidnapping a disabled former patient from another facility
Dorothy Thomas, 23, described by officials as “severely disabled,” was reportedly kidnapped on October 27 but was found later that day
Hodge ran a care center for the disabled from her home in Orlando, Florida, until it closed in August when Thomas’ sister, a patient, died in her care
The saga that led to Hodge allegedly kidnapping her former patient came after she also tried to gain custody of Thomas, with her request rejected by a judge.
In August, Thomas’ sister died while in Hodge’s care, prompting an investigation that led to her facility being closed and all patients transferred to the Omelda Home Care center.
The patients were then transferred last week to the Quest Training Center in Apopka, Florida, and while checking in, staff noticed a maroon SUV parked nearby, according to an arrest warrant for Hodge.
The arrest warrant said that because case workers often check in with their patients at the facility on a regular basis, the presence of the car was not considered.
A spokesperson for the Quest Training Center told WFTV that the facility believes Hodge and Thomas planned the kidnapping in advance, as they claim Thomas willingly ran out the door and was greeted by Hodge at the waiting vehicle.
Local reports initially claimed that Hodge had stumbled upon the facility and snatched Thomas himself, but this was disputed by Quest’s spokesperson.
The search for Thomas escalated when it became apparent that she had been kidnapped without her regular medication
Thomas was reportedly snatched from the Quest Training Center on October 27
Hodge, pictured in court after her arrest, is charged with interference with custody and neglect of an adult with a disability
Although staff members reportedly tried to prevent the disabled woman from fleeing, Hodge allegedly bundled the 23-year-old inside and ran away.
The search for Thomas became urgent when it turned out that she had to take medication regularly, but was removed from care without her medication.
Quest reportedly told officers that she had taken her medication that morning, but was scheduled to take another on the afternoon she was allegedly kidnapped.
The staff called 911 and an arrest warrant was issued for Hodge on suspicion of interference with the custody and neglect of a disabled adult, court documents show.
Fortunately, Thomas was found that same afternoon in Brevard County, about a 40-minute drive from Orlando, and Hodge was taken into custody Wednesday.
She was seen with a shaved head when she appeared in court, but information about her further case was not immediately available.