Woman charged with kidnapping after stealing car with 2 children inside

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SEBRING — Shauna Marie McGraw, age 36, has been charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of child neglect without great bodily harm and one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle after she stole a car with two children inside last night, May 3.

The car was stolen just before 7:30 p.m. in front of the Subway restaurant at 6225 US 27 North in Sebring. The driver, who was the mother of the children, said she parked the vehicle where she could see it when she went in to get some food, leaving the vehicle running. She kept checking on the vehicle through the window. She didn’t see McGraw getting in the car, but did see it driving away, which is when the 911 call was made.

McGraw knew the children, a 2-year-old boy and a 6-month-old boy, were in the car when she took it, telling deputies she had an argument with her fiancé while at the adjacent Shell gas station and needed to “get away.”  

She drove it a short distance north before abandoning the car and the children behind Captain Hawk Designs at 6940 US 27 North and fleeing on foot.

Deputies had located the car and were beginning their search for McGraw when Nakeem Brown, a former Highlands County Sheriff’s Office employee who now works as a loss prevention officer for Walmart, saw McGraw running along US 27 and followed her until deputies arrived.

The children were not physically harmed during the incident.

“I want to thank Nakeem Brown for his assistance,” Sheriff Paul Blackman said. “Not only did he call us when he saw the suspect, he went above and beyond and followed her, leading deputies to her location. The deputies of Charlie Squad did a great job of responding to this and resolving it so quickly, and I am very proud of the work they did.

“I also want to thank the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, who had their helicopter in the air and on the way to assist us when the car and suspect were located and also the many businesses in the area that had security cameras and gave us quick access to the footage that assisted us in our investigation.

“This incident shows why you should always lock your car when you are not in it. This could have turned out much, much worse. While we could charge the mother of the children for leaving them in the car unattended, I think it’s safe to say she learned a valuable lesson from this and will never do that again.”