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Accused kidnapper of autisitic boy back in custody

Samuel Saeli was arrested on a probation violation
Posted at 10:48 AM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 12:33:28-04

A man accused of kidnapping an autistic teen is back in custody as of Wednesday evening.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson says Samuel Saeli was picked-up on a probation violation. Swanson says this arrest relates to Saeli's previous forgery conviction in Erie County.

Earlier in the day, Swanson released a statement condemning the court for failing to notify his office when the court set bail for the 38-year-old accused kidnapper.

"We want to make sure this is a safe place to live and that's what we take into consideration in cases like these," Swanson said.

Fredonia Police say Saeli was caught on surveillance video at the Bennett Road Walmart approaching a 13-year-old boy. Police say Saeli was then seen walking out of the store and getting into his car with the boy around 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening.

About 45 minutes later, police were called to Cushing Street in the village after getting reports a child had been found, and the boy was reunited with his family.

Saeli was arraigned Monday on charges of second degree kidnapping, a Class B Violent Felony. 

Swanson said the criminal code requires the judge hearing the case -- Judge David Prince --  to allow the District Attorney to weigh-in on bail before setting bail or bond. Swanson said he was not given this opportunity, and is concerned about the community's safety after Saeli posted the required $10,000 cash/bond or $20,000 property and was set free.

"My primary concern is the safety of this county," said Swanson in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. "As the father of 5- and 3-year-olds, I am extremely unhappy with the action taken by the Village of Fredonia court."

Swanson said his office then learned that Saeli was already on probation for a felony, so his office asked the county court to issue a warrant for Saeli's re-arrest. 

It is unclear at this time why Saeli targeted his alleged victim, but local autism experts said children on the spectrum can be easy targets for predators.

Steven Anderson, CEO of The Summit Center in Amherst, says children with autism can have a tenancy to wander.

"Certainly they can be very vulnerable," he said. "It may not take much to influence someone who is non-verbal and doesn't understand who has come up to them. They may have said, 'I'm going to take you to your mom and dad."

Anderson says children with autism struggle with recognizing when they may be in danger.

"They are pretty trusting of people, so I could see very easily someone being persuaded t go along with them, even if they were unfamiliar with the person."

Saeli was arraigned for violating his probation Thursday morning and Judge Paul Wojtaszek remanded him to jail without bail.