Boy, 11, found in Georgia
Rescue ends 3-day search for Marion County 5th-grader; Hunt continues for sex offender who ran from police
By Martin E. Comas, Jim Buynak and Rich McKay Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted January 22, 2005
EMERSON, Ga. -- Adam Kirkirt, the shy fifth-grader from Marion County who disappeared three days ago with a convicted child molester, was rescued by police Friday in northwest Georgia after a frantic nationwide search.
Paramedics checked out the 11-year-old and found him to be healthy and fine, Marion sheriff's Capt. Dennis Strow said late Friday. The boy is expected to return to Florida this afternoon for a reunion with his relieved parents.
"I just want my baby home," said his tearful mother, Dorraine Kirkirt, 39. "I want to hold him. He will not be out of my sight again."
She said she talked briefly to her son by telephone from the Marion County Sheriff's Office in Ocala.
"I told him how much I loved him," she said. "And he told me, 'I'm OK, mom.' "
Adam's father, Ivert Kirkirt, 41, said he learned that his son had been found through news bulletins.
"I saw it on TV when I walked in the door," he said. "I am so happy that he is OK."
The search for Adam began Wednesday, the day after the boy was picked up at Dunnellon Elementary School by Frederick Fretz Jr., 42, who lived with Adam and his father.
Adam's father said he didn't know it, but Fretz was a convicted sex offender, having assaulted an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania in 1989.
On Wednesday, authorities issued a nationwide Amber Alert urging motorists to be on the lookout for the vehicle, a 1993 Chevy Lumina.
Investigators got their first break Friday morning when the car was found broken down near an exit ramp off Interstate 75 in Emerson, about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta. Authorities began a massive search in the area on the ground and from the air.
Emerson police Maj. Mike Powell said his department received a call when Fretz and the boy went to a gas-station store to buy a gallon of water and some candy. Police spotted them just before 7 p.m.
The boy ran to safety as the officers chased Fretz into the woods, Powell said.
"We found the child maybe 200 yards from the gas station," he said. "Two of my officers were chasing the suspect through the woods, and the boy was running toward us."
Authorities were still searching for Fretz late Friday night. A police helicopter aimed its spotlight in the pitch-black woods. Using a loudspeaker, an officer urged Fretz to give up.
The site where Adam was found was near a campground, about two miles from where the Lumina was abandoned. Dozens of police cars lined the road nearby.
Steve Lazarus, FBI special agent with the bureau's Atlanta division, said authorities will keep a close watch overnight in the area, known as Red Top Mountain.
"The plan is to keep the perimeter all night and to resume the search at daybreak," he said.
Ivert Kirkirt said Fretz never told him about the sex conviction, for which Fretz served five years in prison before being released in 1996. Fretz never registered as a sex offender, as required by law in Florida, authorities said.
"I hope they put him so far in jail he will never be able to get out and do this to someone else," Adam's father said of Fretz.
Kirkirt and Fretz last year served time together in the Marion County Jail, where they realized they had known each other years earlier in New Jersey. Fretz was in jail on charges of domestic battery and possession of marijuana. Kirkirt was charged with violation of probation.
After the men were released from the jail in October, Kirkirt invited Fretz to move into his Ocala mobile home.
Soon after, Fretz seemed to have developed a bond with Adam, authorities said.
"He fished with the boy. He camped with the boy. He played Nintendo with the boy," said Strow, the Marion County sheriff's captain.
In school, Adam is a quiet boy and "a good kid," said Marion district spokesman Kevin Christian.
Marion Sheriff Ed Dean admitted Friday that Fretz "slipped through a loophole" at the county jail, which should have caught the fact that he never revealed his sex offense after he moved to Florida. The jail is now conducting background checks on all inmates when they arrive and bail out, he said.
Ivert Kirkirt said when Adam comes home he will probably send his son back to live with his mother. The couple are separated and seeking a divorce.
Ivert Kirkirt said authorities questioned him for hours Friday, seeking to determine whether he was involved in his son's disappearance perhaps as part of a custody dispute.
"I understand why they had to do it," he said. "They were just doing their job."
His mother was grateful for the Amber Alert and the work of the police in two states.
"The Amber Alert is wonderful," she said. "I really was expecting my son to come home, but I didn't think it would be this soon. It was very, very scary. But today was nothing but cake."
The boy's father added, "If you've got kids, don't trust them with anybody. Keep them by your side."
Read more at Further Adventures of Indigo Red, Hot Dog Kills Child Molester.