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Kidnap Suspect On Suicide Watch

An unemployed, divorced father of three young girls made his first court appearance Thursday in the abduction of a 10-year-old girl last week. He was ordered held on $1 million bond, in isolation and on suicide watch.

James P. Johnson, 38, dressed in red hospital scrubs, only said, "Good morning, your honor," during the video appearance on a single charge of kidnapping of a person under 13 for the purpose of committing lewd and lascivious or sexual acts.

Defense attorney Thomas W. Kurrus didn't object to the $1 million bond but asked Judge Phyliss Kotey to order his client held at the local mental health facility where he was arrested Wednesday and not at the county jail.

Kotey denied Kurrus' request, which State Attorney Rod Smith opposed. She ordered jailers to keep Johnson in a cell by himself and on 24-hour suicide watch.

A second charge against Johnson, sexual battery on a person under 11, will be processed later and other charges are possible, Smith said.

Wednesday's arrest came hours after investigators seized a green Jeep Cherokee from one of two homes searched Wednesday. Investigators said the vehicle matched the description of the one used in the March 6 kidnapping outside Trenton.

Johnson was picked up at a mental health center in Alachua County where he had checked himself in, authorities said.

"With this arrest, the community can rest a little easier tonight," said Ken Tucker, regional director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Alachua County Sheriff Stephen Oelrich said a member of the public came forward and pointed investigators towards Johnson. The woman described both his car and his home, he said.

Johnson is charged with one count of kidnapping and one count of kidnapping with special circumstances. The special circumstances are lewd and lascivious acts against a child under 13.

He also was charged with one count of sexual battery on a child under the age of 11.

State Attorney Rod Smith said Johnson was identified by the child in a photo lineup earlier Wednesday.

The victim, Jessica Rodriguez, was abducted on a shady dirt driveway to her rural home northwest of Gainesville by a man driving a green sport utility vehicle. She was let go three days later at a Gainesville Wal-Mart and reported to be in good condition.

Authorities had said Jessica was abducted by a man driving a green suburban sport utility vehicle. They had appealed to the public for tips.

In most cases, The Associated Press does not identify the victims of sexual assault. In this case, however, the name of the victim had been widely used because of the circumstances of her abduction.

A 9-year-old girl in Putnam County, east of Gainesville, said a man approached her March 1 who resembled the composite drawing of the kidnapper of Jessica.

That man also was reported to be driving a green Jeep Cherokee. The 9-year-old girl ran away a another car approached.

Two homes were searched Wednesday, one in a neighborhood north of the University of Florida where investigators removed mattresses, sheets, several boxes and some pictures. A wooden shed was also seized.

Authorities said after Jessica turned up safe that they believed her abductor kept her in a house with an in-ground swimming pool, a privacy fence, a shed and a barking dog.

Neighbors of the home searched near the University of Florida said the family has a dog and a backyard pool.

By Ron Word;

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