Police have canceled the Amber Alert for local girl, 14-year-old Joanna Coates. The teen's mother says her daughter has been found and is being evaluated at the hospital and the suspect is under arrest.
ROCHESTER — The missing Rochester teenager who became the focus of a statewide Amber Alert had been found safe and the man accused of kidnapping her was arrested; however, questions persisted about their relationship.
"Our missing person is safe and will be brought back home and turned over to her mom," said Rochester Police Commander Joe Morabito.
The 14-year-old girl, Joanna Coates, hadn't been seen since Saturday when her mother Linda Hollaert reported her missing on Monday.
Rochester Police canceled the Amber Alert just before 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Linda Hollaert told the Daily Messenger's news partner News10NBC that her daughter and Robert Gonzalez, 41, were found in New York City. She says Gonzalez has been arrested and her daughter is being taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Investigators believed the teen was with Gonzalez, who lived two doors down from her home on LaSalle Street, a man with whom neighbors said she had been unusually close.
"We believe there's some kind of relationship there," Morabito acknowledged. "They know each other. We don't have enough detail right now to go into what exactly the relationship was, the level of the relationship."
"It's unfortunate that a 14-year-old girl got caught up with a 41-year-old man," said Justice Ross, who lived across the street and said he'd regularly see Gonzalez and the teen together, holding hands."They're saying that he abducted her. I doubt that because this was probably more willingly than anything."
Rochester Police believed Joanna Coates was taken by Gonzalez on LaSalle Street around 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. He last had been seen traveling southeast, possibly heading to New York City. Authorities said Coates was taken under circumstances that led police to believe she was in imminent danger of serious harm or death.
The chief of the New York Police Department spoke Tuesday about how the NYPD tracked them down.
"When we need to find somebody quickly, we have a lot of tools at our disposal. We're not going to get into exactly what techniques we used but in a short period of time after getting this Amber Alert, working with Rochester PD and others, thankfully we were able to quickly apprehend this individual before the girl was injured," said NYPD Chief Dermot Shea.
Gonzalez has a criminal record going back more than two decades.
In 1997, he was arrested in Brooklyn on weapons charges for bringing a loaded gun to a home he broke into. He served almost four years in prison for that.
In 2003, Gonzalez was arrested again in Brooklyn on drug charges for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced to four years in prison that time.
His record continued later in the Rochester area.
In 2008, he was arrested in Monroe County on drug charges for cocaine possession. That time he got two and a half years.
According to Morabito, on Tuesday the NYPD and the FBI located Coates and Gonzalez in Brooklyn. Gonzalez was arrested on an outstanding warrant for an unrelated assault charge. Police anticipate charging him with kidnapping once he is returned to Rochester.
Hollaert reported that Coates was taken to a hospital for evaluation and found to be unhurt.
While Coates hadn't been seen since Saturday, Rochester Police explained they did not become involved until Monday because there had been no report that she was missing before then.
They also said that when she was reported missing, that was the result of an investigation by Child Protective Services and State Police.
"Child Protective Services actually went to the house on Monday," Morabito said, "with a New York State police investigator following up an investigation they had. From that they learned she was missing. And that's when they called us."
On Tuesday evening, police detectives combed over Gonzalez's house on LaSalle Street while Child Protective Services' workers met with Coates' family.
In discussing a possible relationship between a 14-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man, Morabito cautioned parents.
"Our advice is to know what your children are doing all the time," he said. "Keep an eye on them. Know where they are. Know who they're with, who they're talking to. Whether it be social media, in person, know where they go."