75-year-old suspect charged with kidnapping, sex assault of 5-year-old in New York City

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Man accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing girl due in NYC court
75-year-old suspect Franz Vila is charged with kidnapping, criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and acting in a manner to injure a child under 17 years old.

JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- A 75-year-old man was arraigned Thursday on charges including kidnapping and criminal sex act after a 5-year-old girl went missing in Queens on Tuesday.

Franz Vila, who was seen with the child on surveillance video, is charged with kidnapping, criminal sex act, predatory sex assault against a child and endangering the welfare of a child. He was released from custody after the arraignment.

Officials said Thursday they believe Vila sexually abused the child at his apartment in Manhattan.

He was charged in Manhattan because that's where police say the crime happened. He was led out of the police precinct on Wednesday evening.

Franz Vila is facing a criminal sex act charge after a 5-year-old girl went missing for hours in Jackson Heights, Queens on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old mother of the 5-year-old was originally charged with endangering the welfare of a child, police said on Wednesday. However, the Queens District Attorney's Office is declining to prosecute her pending further investigation.

It all unfolded when the child was at a Foodtown Supermarket at 76-10 37th Ave. with her mother around 9 a.m.

The mother told police Vila saw them in the supermarket and said her daughter wanted to go to the park, so she agreed to let the 75-year-old man take her.

Eyewitness News spoke to the mother who said she thought Vila was someone she could trust and that she had met a year ago. She said Vila had spent time with her and her daughter at their home.

She says she thought they would be back in half an hour or so, never imagining that the man, who is himself a grandfather, would harm her child.

Vila did not return with the girl and they weren't in the park. That's when the mom said she called police around 1 p.m. on Tuesday to report her daughter missing.

An intense search ensued with dozens of officers fanning out across Jackson Heights, equipped with a Bloodhound seen getting a whiff of a pink blanket to follow the scent.

Police said the girl was found after 4:30 p.m. at the subway station at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, after a good Samaritan flagged down an officer when he saw the child and man on a platform. It was only a few blocks from the supermarket and the park.

Police now believe the Vila and the child were returning from Manhattan. He lives in an apartment on East 97th Street.

The girl is now in the care of her father.

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