14-year-old Rochester girl found safe in NYC; Amber Alert suspect arrested

December 04, 2018 08:55 PM

The missing Rochester teenager who became the focus of a statewide Amber Alert had been found safe and the man accused of kidnapping her was arrested, however, questions persisted about their relationship.

"Our missing person is safe and will be brought back home and turned over to her mom," said Rochester Police Commander Joe Morabito.


The 14-year-old girl, Joanna Coates, hadn't been seen since Saturday when her mother Linda Hollaert reported her missing on Monday.

"Just bring her home safely to me. I just want my daughter home," Hollaert cried on Monday night.

Investigators believed the teen was with 41-year-old Robert Gonzalez who lived two doors down from her home on LaSalle Street, a man with whom neighbors said she had been unusually close to.

"We believe there's some kind of relationship there," Morabito acknowledged. "They know each other. We don't have enough detail right now to go into what exactly the relationship was, the level of the relationship."

"It's unfortunate that a 14-year-old girl got caught up with a 41-year-old man," said Justice Ross, who lived across the street and said he'd regularly see Gonzalez and the teen together, holding hands."They're saying that he abducted her. I doubt that because this was probably more willingly than anything."

Gonzalez did have a criminal record going back more than two decades.

In 1997, he was arrested in Brooklyn on weapons charges for bringing a loaded gun to a home he broke into. He served almost four years in prison for that.

In 2003, Gonzalez was arrested again in Brooklyn on drug charges for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced to four years in prison that time.

His record continued later in the Rochester area.

In 2008, he was arrested in Monroe County on drug charges for cocaine possession. That time he got two and a half years. 

According to Morabito, on Tuesday the NYPD and the FBI located Coates and Gonzalez in Brooklyn. Gonzalez was arrested on an outstanding warrant for an unrelated assault charge. Police anticipate charging him with kidnapping once he is returned to Rochester.

Hollaert reported that Coates was taken to a hospital for evaluation and found to be unhurt.

While Coates hadn't been seen since Saturday, Rochester Police explained they did not become involved until Monday because there had been no report that she was missing before then.

They also said that when she was reported missing, that was the result of an investigation by Child Protective Services and State Police.

"Child Protective Services actually went to the house on Monday," Morabito said, "with a New York State police investigator following up an investigation they had. From that they learned she was missing.  And that's when they called us."

On Tuesday evening, police detectives combed over Gonzalez's house on LaSalle Street while Child Protective Services' workers met with Coates' family.

In discussing a possible relationship between a 14-year-old girl and a 41-year-old man, Morabito cautioned parents.

"Our advice is to know what your children are doing all the time," he said. "Keep an eye on them. Know where they are. Know who they're with, who they're talking to. Whether it be social media, in person, know where they go."


Charles Molineaux

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