Spring Hill man accused of abandoning kids at Publix
SPRING HILL, Aug 04, 2012 (Hernando Today - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Gabriel Lee Horn walked into Publix, told an employee he had forgotten something, made a dash toward his pickup and drove away.
Authorities said he actually forgot something extremely important when he left the store -- a 9-year-old girl and an 8-month-old boy.
The girl was pushing the infant in a shopping cart and chased after Horn as he was walking across the parking lot to his vehicle, but she couldn't catch up to him, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
The crying girl walked back into the Mariner Boulevard store and talked to an employee, who then called law enforcement, deputies said.
The store's video surveillance was reviewed by the sheriff's office and Horn was later found at his home at 9484 Maygold Lane, about 1.3 miles from where the children were left behind, authorities said.
Deputy Dane Jenkins stated in his report that Horn had "dilated pupils" and "slurred speech" when he spoke to him shortly after 7:30 p.m.
Jenkins asked Horn the whereabouts of the children and the suspect told him, "I don't know ... Aren't they outside " according to the sheriff's office.
Horn, 40, was charged with two counts of child abuse. He was on probation for a prior battery conviction and was charged with an additional count of violating his probation, deputies said.
Court records show he was convicted of marijuana-related charges in 1992 and 1998.
Denise Moloney, a sheriff's office spokeswoman, would not say whether Horn was the children's father. She said the children are under the care of a relative.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, along with the sheriff's office, is investigating.
"We did receive a hotline call (Thursday) night regarding this incident and began investigating immediately," said Erin Gillespie, a DCF spokeswoman. "We are focused on ensuring the safety of these children and will continue to do so as we investigate."
Jenkins stated the video surveillance revealed Horn had "sped up his pace" toward the truck after he exited the store.
"In review of the video it was evident that (Horn) was leaving (the children) behind not even looking back to check on their well being," Jenkins wrote.
Horn walked into the west entrance of Publix with the children and placed the infant into a shopping cart, deputies said.
The 9-year-old pushed the cart alongside Horn, who walked near the pharmacy. It was at that time he turned around and headed toward the same doors he had entered, according to a sheriff's report.
The scared girl watched as Horn pulled away in his blue GMC pickup and came back into the store with the infant, witnesses said.
"In a retail environment, we encounter a variety of situations," said Shannon Patten, a Publix spokeswoman. "Publix has so many caring associates, and while this incident was very unfortunate, we're thankful the children were left in a location where they were able to be temporarily cared for and protected while the authorities were investigating the facts."
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