Florida Sheriff Urges Charges in Teen 'Kidnapper' Case Be Dropped

Cops arrested teen who said he was trying to help 3-year-old find mother.

June 28, 2010 — -- In an unusual twist, a Florida sheriff is asking that the state not bring formal charges against a teen his officers had arrested for the alleged -- and much debated -- attempted kidnapping of a 3-year-old.

Edwin McFarlane was arrested on June 10 despite stating that he was helping a seemingly lost 3-year-old girl look for her mother in a Burlington Coat Factory.

After the mother found Edwin and the girl, Edwin, 14, returned to shopping with his mother. A few minutes later, police officers arrived on the scene and arrested him.

"Although there was probable cause for the arrest of Edwin McFarlane for the June 10, 2010, incident at the Burlington Coat Factory, after careful review of the circumstances, I write today to ask your office to forego bringing any formal charges against this young man," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings wrote in a letter addressed to Florida State Attorney Lawson Lamar.

Sources told ABC News affiliate WFTV that an officer leaked confidential information to a website.

"We stand by the integrity of the investigation. But because of the publicizing of information not properly authorized of an exempt status, it led us to this decision this afternoon," Capt. Angelo Nieves told WFTV.

Since McFarlane's arrest, the case has become a hot button issue in Florida where an unscientific poll taken by The Orlando Sentinel shortly after the incident showed that 93 percent of respondents did not agree with the police action.

"It has really turned our lives upside down and we've been walking in a nightmare since that day," Edwin's mother, Mildred Roman told The Orlando Sentinel. "Today we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Teen on 'GMA:' 'I Was Just Trying to Help

Edwin appeared on "Good Morning America" earlier this month to share his side of the story.

"I was just trying to help," said the soft-spoken Edwin told "GMA" on June 17.

Surveillance video of the incident shows Edwin walking out of the store with the little girl. He later told police that he thought her mother left the store without her.

Surveillance Footage, Witnesses See Different Things

Shortly after that, the girl's panicked mother, headed outside, found her daughter with Edwin and returned to the store.

While Edwin was outside, a store clerk called 911 and reported what appeared to be a possible abduction.

"She doesn't know the guy at all," the clerk said in the call. "She was at the cash register. Her child was right next to her. The guy was walking out of the store, called the child over to him. She went over to him and walked out of the store."

Both Edwin's mother and the surveillance video appear to contradict the clerk's story.

"He didn't call her over," Edwin's mother, Mildred Roman, said earlier this month. "He noticed the child was left alone."

Roman said her son thought the girl may have been with a group of women that walked out of the store just moments before.

"He told me he was going to help the little girl find her mommy," Roman said.

The girl's mother was not among the group of women, but she eventually came outside and saw her daughter. The mother ran to Roman and her son and thanked them, Roman said.

Minutes later police showed up.

"Without pretty much saying much, they pulled him into the aisle and handcuffed him," Roman said.

The arrest report acknowledges the boy appears to have been trying to help the child, but concludes by saying there was "probable cause" for arrest under charges of "false imprisonment."

Edwin's lawyer, Natalie Jackson, told "GMA" June 17 that even if no formal charges are brought against the boy, his arrest record could still haunt him for years.

"The problem is, now he has an arrest record," Jackson said. "We are challenging them [the state attorny's office] today to do the right thing and dismiss this case against Edwin."

Jackson also called the sheriff's department to expunge Edwin's arrest record.

If he had it to do all over again, Edwin told "GMA" he would still help the little girl, but maybe alert an adult and "ask for help" next time.