Trucker accused of kidnapping local children held as flight risk, danger

Marshall Pendergrass, 47. (Photo: Winslow Police Department/Facebook)
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille D. Bibles Friday ordered truck driver Marshall Pendergrass, 47 of Jacksonville, Fla., who’s accused of kidnapping two Belton children, to remain jailed “pending trial as a flight risk and a danger.”

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for next Thursday in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Pendergrass is named in a federal complaint charging two counts of kidnapping.

The two Belton children who turned up on March 16 in Arizona with the truck driver a day after they were reported missing told authorities their hands were bound behind their backs with zip ties and their legs were secured with duct tape, an FBI probable cause affidavit says.

The 12-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl were reported missing on March 15.

They were found the next day in the top bunk of a sleeper cab of an 18-wheeler at a Flying J in Winslow, Ariz., after a Belton investigator pinged Pendergrass’ cellphone in the area of the truck stop.

Pendergrass was a former friend of the children’s family and had lived next door when the family lived in Jacksonville, Fla., the affidavit said.

The boy, who told investigators he’d wanted an iPhone 8 since December, had been in contact with Pendergrass, who told him he would be in the area during the children’s spring break, according to the affidavit.

The boy told investigators he thought Pendergrass would buy the phone for him because “Pendergrass had previously spoiled the kids when had taken them to the store,” the affidavit says.

The boy waited until his mother left the house at around 1:45 p.m. on March 15 and then walked to the Belton truck stop where he’d arranged to meet Pendergrass, who told him and his sister to leave their cellphones at home.

The boy said Pendergrass told him his sister needed to come along in order to sign paperwork for the phone at Metro PCS and said the girl should go to a friend’s home, where the truck driver picked her up.

They didn’t go to the phone store, but instead kept driving despite the children’s demands to be taken home, the affidavit says.

The boy told investigators that when he and his sister awoke the next morning, Pendergrass told them they were going to Nevada, the affidavit says.

The boy said they again demanded that he take them home or call for a taxi or Uber ride or call police, the affidavit says.

Instead, the children told investigators, Pendergrass used the zip ties to secure their hands behind their backs and duct tape to bind their legs, the affidavit says.

He later removed the restraints, the affidavit says.

Police located the truck on the night of March 16.

The two children were asleep in the top bunk of the sleeper cab when they heard “a knock on the truck” and realized police officers were outside, the affidavit says.

The Winslow officers asked Pendergrass for permission to look inside, but he “said they could not because it was the middle of the night.”

The girl then stuck her foot out and “the officers yelled that there was someone on the top bunk.”

Police took the children to a nearby hospital.

Pendergrass was detained and was taken to the Winslow Police Department for questioning.

The next day he told investigators he had taken the children on trips before when their family lived in Jacksonville.

“I was their parents’ guardian angel during the summer time. They did not have to worry about kids while they were at work. I took care of them.”

He said that after he picked up the children on March 15, he took them to a Walmart store to buy snacks and had planned to take them home, but claimed the talked him into letting them ride with him to Sparks, Nev.

He said he learned the next day that the two were runaways, but didn’t call police because he planned to take them home.

He denied promising to buy an iPhone for them and said the children put the zip ties and duct tape on each other.

Authorities earlier said Pendergrass doesn’t have a criminal record.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Winslow Criminal Investigations Division are work jointly working the case.