A 60-year-old homeless man has been arrested for allegedly molesting a six-year-old girl while she and her family were taking shelter from Hurricane Michael, WEAR-TV is reporting.
John Stapleton, 60, was taken into custody on Thursday. Stapleton was among the unknown number of people who had taken refuge at Davidson Middle School in Crestview — in the Florida Panhandle — as Hurricane Michael raged. A witness saw security footage taken from inside the school and noticed that a man, allegedly Stapleton, was seen on video putting his hands under the clothes of a six-year-old girl “in a lewd manner.”
According to a post on the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page, Stapleton allegedly admitted to touching the victim, and allegedly tried to justify himself by saying that the girl told him that “touching felt good.”
He’s been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under the age of 12. According to attorney Richard Hornsby, that’s a Life Felony in The Sunshine State — carrying a possible penalty of a minimum 25 year prison sentence followed by lifetime sex offender probation and a $10,000 fine.
It is unclear, as of this writing, if Stapleton has an attorney. Also unclear is whether or not he has a criminal record.
@Rachael_WTKR Hi nice to meet you from England i seen the storm damage im thinking of those people affected got this clip when these kittens got a lucky escape from hurricane Michael ???? pic.twitter.com/vtnT99JgMB
— Matthew Jordan (@Matthew92013955) October 12, 2018
Natural disasters can sometimes bring out the worst in people, as predatory individuals take advantage of the lack of witnesses and law enforcement being stretched thin to commit their crimes of opportunity. The most common crime committed during disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes is looting — as was the case when Hurricane Florence roared through the Carolinas a few weeks ago.
Fortunately, looting post-Florence appears to have been limited to one or two incidents. For example, as The Asheville Citizen Times reported at the time, four people were arrested — and a warrant was issued for a fifth — for reported break-ins around Wilmington, North Carolina, during the storm.
Being housed in shelters during hurricanes can also bring out predatory criminals. During Hurricane Katrina — where thousands of people were left inside the virtually-lawless Superdome without adequate food, water, and air conditioning for five days — there was all manner of crime, according to USA Today. By some accounts, there was at least one rape (by some reports, dozens), at least one instance of a man sexually assaulting a young girl. There were at least three deaths, one of which was a suicide.
As of this writing, the death toll from Hurricane Michael stands at 13.