A Florida couple and their two sons went to grab a quick burger at a McDonald’s. During their meal, the young boys employed the buddy system to use the restroom. Without indicating there was a problem, the older son returned to the table and the younger son did not, so the father went to investigate.
For most people, a trip to McDonald’s with your family is an enjoyable treat, but one father’s trip to a Jacksonville McDonald’s turned out to be a nightmare. It was 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday when the family sat down to eat, and the brothers, ages 7 and 6, got up to use the nearby bathroom. A brief time later, the 7-year-old came back alone, causing the father to become concerned.
The dad walked into the restroom to look for his younger boy and saw a suspicious-looking black man wearing dark clothing emerge from a stall and leave the bathroom. Behind that same stall door, which the stranger had just exited, the horrified father found his little boy pulling up his pants, The Florida Times-Union reported.
The father took his son back to the table and then took chase after the man who had fled on foot. Unfortunately, the chase didn’t last long as the distraught father soon lost sight of the man. The scrappy suspect, later identified as 33-year-old Keith Sykes, who is homeless, managed to get escape. But, luckily, his quick getaway didn’t last long.
After the family called the police to report the crime and seek their help, officers found Sykes hiding in a dumpster, which is where he belongs. Sykes is lucky that the victim’s dad didn’t find him before the police did, but the incident raises a lot of questions. Originally, Sykes was arrested for possession of marijuana, but he was later charged with capital sexual battery after he was identified by several witnesses as the suspect in the McDonald’s bathroom attack.
“It’s hard to tell exactly what happened in that stall, but based on forensic evidence and medical exams, it’s clear that some kind of sex crime happened,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief Tom Hackney said at a news conference regarding the encounter. “You never know what’s on the other side of a bathroom door,” Hackney added, warning parents to keep a close eye on their children.
A family member of the victim told News4Jax that the family is facing a lot of criticism, and it hurts. “They were in a family-oriented restaurant sitting just a couple chairs away from the bathroom,” the family member said. “You can’t always stop everything. This man is crazy!” The woman also said the parents were bashed on social media. Her hope is that people will aim their criticism at Keith Sykes, not the victim’s parents.
While we hope that Keith Sykes goes to prison for a long time and will cease to be a danger to young children, there is simply no way of knowing what other predators may be out there and just looking for an opportunity. Don’t give them one. Little kids should always be escorted by an adult when they use a public bathroom. Sending your child into a closed room, where any disgusting stranger could be waiting for their next victim, is not a chance that a parent should be willing to take.
This couple learned a tough lesson, but it’s important for other parents to learn from this family’s unfortunate mistake. Public restrooms are a pedophile’s paradise because they can sit in a stall and take their pick from a revolving door of kids. Nobody will know something bad has happened until it’s too late.