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A 15-year-old runaway, who officials had considered listing among...

By JAMES M. EVANS

ATLANTA -- A 15-year-old runaway, who officials had considered listing among Atlanta's dead and missing black children, Monday identified 'a man in my neighborhood' as the kidnapper in a series of December child abductions.

Lee Gooch, who left his Atlanta home Jan. 5, had been jailed in Tallahassee, Fla., under the name of Lee Kendell -- his mother's maiden name -- between Jan. 14 and last Saturday.

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He was returned to the Leon County sheriff's office in Tallahassee Monday when he called to see if he could retrieve the car he was driving when he was arrested. A spokesman said Atlanta authorities planned to pick Gooch up in Tallahassee.

Tallahassee police said Gooch was picked up at the city bus station after he called to ask whether he could retrieve his car. They told him his parents in Atlanta were worried and that he had been listed as a missing person.

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'I'm OK. I just took a trip on my own,' Gooch later told reporters.

He was asked if he knew anything about the Atlanta mystery, and responded that 'a man in my neighborhood snatched some kids in December. It's a kidnapping deal.'

He said he only knew that the man was black, but he added, 'there's a lady in the neighborhood who knows who he is, but she's scared to tell.'

Gooch said the first known victim, Edward Hope Smith, 14, was 'a close friend,' but he said he knew none of the other children. Smith, who disappeared on July 20, 1979, was found shot to death eight days later.

Gooch told reporters he left Atlanta because of differences with his father and that was why he had used his mother's maiden name.

Gooch was arrested in Tallahassee after he crashed a car into a utility pole and served 23 days on charges of reckless driving, running a red light, not having a valid driver's license and fleeing police.

In Atlanta, the police department's missing persons bureau continued its search for 11-year-old Patrick Baltazar who was reported missing late last Friday. He has not officially been added to the list of missing children.

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Of the 17 missing black children, 15 have been found dead with Jeffrey Lamar Mathis, 11, and Darron Glass, 10, still unaccounted for.

Several Atlanta City Council members joined relatives and friends of Lubie 'Chuck' Geter Monday at the funeral of the 14-year-old youth, whose body was found in a strip of woods in South Atlanta last Thursday. Geter, who was strangled, was the 15th fatal victim in the string of missing and slain black children.

Henry Adams, Geter's Murphy High School counselor, said during the funeral at Second Mount Vernon Baptist Church that he remembered Geter as a youth 'with a twinkle in his eye and a smile that made him instantly likeable.'

Dr. Robert Stivers, Fulton County Medical Examiner, said he believed three other children's deaths not being investigated by the special police task force should be added to the list.

Stivers said he believed the deaths of 10-year-old Aaron Wyche, 15-year-old Patrick Rogers and 14-year-old Cynthia Montgomery ought to be made part of the 18-month-long investigation.

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