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Man sought in grandfather’s disappearance apprehended in Chicago

By Staff | Nov 3, 2011

A Cape Coral man sought in the disappearance of his grandfather was located Thursday in Chicago and taken into custody by authorities.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service’s Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force apprehended Garrett Kern, 24, of 3519 S.W. 29th Ave., at about 1 p.m. A warrant had been issued for Kern on the charges of grand theft auto.

“He was found in a mission, like a shelter,” Lt. Tony Sizemore, spokesman for the Cape police, said. “We had information that he was there.”

Added to Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers’ 10 Most Wanted list on Wednesday, Kern is a person of interest in his grandfather’s case.

James Arthur, 80, also of 3519 S.W. 29th Ave., was last seen Oct. 27 leaving the probation office in downtown Fort Myers with his grandson. He had driven Kern to a probation appointment that Kern had that morning.

According to police, Kern was seen later that afternoon at the BA Hustlers Pool Hall on Santa Barbara Boulevard, South. He was driving his grandfather’s car – a 2009, dark gray Volvo S80 – but Arthur was not present with him.

While at the Cape pool hall, Kern reportedly made statements to people present that gave rise to concern for the welfare of his grandfather.

Kern then fled the area with his grandfather’s Volvo, officials reported.

The Cape police announced Friday that someone, who they believe to be Kern, attempted to use one of Arthur’s credit cards at 5 a.m. that morning at a gas station in Gainesville. The card – used to buy gas – was declined.

Authorities believed that Kern had fled the state, possibly to Illinois.

According to officials, the U.S. Marshal’s Service’s Southwest Florida unit has been working with the Great Lakes unit for several days, following up on leads. Cape detectives were flying to Chicago Thursday to question Kern.

Sizemore declined to comment on whether Kern said anything about his missing grandfather when he was captured and taken into custody.

Sizemore did say authorities are still trying to locate Arthur’s car.

“I do not believe we have recovered the vehicle,” he said.

The 2009 Volvo S80 has the Florida tag A057QX.

Kern was raised by the Arthurs and has been with them since age 3.

Kern is no stranger to law enforcement, according to Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers. He has numerous felony arrests that date back to age 15, when he was picked up on weapons and burglary charges. As an adult, Kern has been jailed six times in the last two years on drug to theft charges, the report states.

On Aug. 12, he was arrested for numerous counts of burglary and theft, officials reported. He was released from jail on Oct. 27 on those charges.

Since Arthur went missing, Cape police have searched Caloosa Lake, the wooded areas surrounding it and a nearby state preserve because Kern had reportedly liked to visit those areas throughout his life for recreation.

Family members have also organized searches over the past week.

A non-profit search and rescue organization confirmed Thursday that it would be joining forces with local authorities in an effort to locate Arthur.

“We don’t ever step forward, either the family or law enforcement calls us,” Sherry McKinney, with Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery, said.

“Family has to get approval from law enforcement because we work directly with them,” she said.

Created in 2000, the organization has been involved in 1,255 searches, which resulted in the location of more than 300 people and 129 deceased people.

It has been involved with several missing person cases in Florida, including Caylee Anthony, Somer Thompson, Haleigh Cummings and Trenton Duckett.

Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery is even involved with another local case: missing Mariner High School teacher Amy Patterson.

“We did search once for her and we’re going back,” McKinney said.

She explained that the organization has companies that work with it and donate their time, and that it has a multitude of resources, from sonar and ground-penetrating radar equipment, to an unmanned aircraft and more.

“We’re called in to help with all kinds of cases,” McKinney said. “We have more resources than most law enforcement.”

Sizemore said the organization will be assisting with search efforts.

“Absolutely, we would take their assistance,” he said. “We’ve been working with them already in pulling aerial maps and getting intel for them.”

Sizemore added that a group leader is coming in today to conduct some reconnaissance work, “to kind of scout out the area themselves.”

Authorities expect to go into full search mode on Saturday.

Anyone with information on the Kern-Arthur case can contact the CCPD at 574-3223, or submit a tip by texting “CCPD” plus the message to CRIMES or by visiting: www.capecops.com. Tipsters can also contact Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at (800) 780-TIPS (8477) and be eligible for a cash reward.