Jace Pletcher-2 (copy)

Family and community members gathered at the parking lot of the 11-C Market on Roberts Lane in Oildale to begin a search for 2-year-old Jace Pletcher, who family members said was abducted from his front yard on Oct. 9. Pletcher was found the next day after a 16-hour search.

A man accused of walking off with a 2-year-old boy from the front yard of an Oildale home on Oct. 9 told sheriff’s investigators he believed the boy was being abused and wanted to start a new life with the toddler, whom he suspected was his son, according to sheriff’s reports filed in court.

The alleged kidnapping set off a frantic 16-hour search throughout Oildale before the boy was eventually found safe at a residence on Roberts Lane the next day.

In Kern County Sheriff’s reports filed in Kern County Superior Court, the alleged kidnapper, Eric Truman, 37, said he saw marks on the boy’s arm and decided the boy wasn’t safe, he told deputies, according to the documents. Truman later told friends he believed the marks were cigarette burns, according to interviews deputies conducted with witnesses who knew Truman, including a man who sheltered the pair overnight.

Truman and the boy, Jace Pletcher, were found in a home on Roberts Lane the next morning. Truman was arrested on suspicion of felony kidnapping and later pleaded not guilty. Pletcher was unharmed but taken to Kern Medical where a rash on his face, chest and arms was deemed to be impetigo, a skin irritation that appears as red sores.

Truman told deputies in the documents that he believed Pletcher may be his son and he occasionally visited with the boy at the boy’s home. A woman at the boy’s home said Truman paid more attention to Pletcher than the other children and had asked previously to take the boy to the park or the store but was never given permission to do so. She identified Truman as the boy’s uncle.

Several witnesses the deputies interviewed who knew Truman said they saw him with the boy on Oct. 9 but were unaware a manhunt was underway, the reports say. One woman said she didn’t come forward sooner because she felt Truman was a kind person and that he would be shot for kidnapping the boy. Several witnesses listed in the reports said Truman believed the boy was his son and believed the boy was being abused.

A man who described himself as a former Army medic sheltered Truman and the boy overnight in his apartment, according to the investigation documents. He told deputies he didn’t realize a manhunt was underway for Truman and the boy until he turned on the radio the next morning.

He said Truman told him of the suspected abuse and he felt the marks on the boy’s arms were consistent with cigarette burns based on his medical training. However, he confronted Truman the next morning after learning of the manhunt and demanded Truman contact a family law attorney and the sheriff’s department.

That man and other witnesses who saw the boy with Truman told deputies in interviews the child seemed comfortable with Truman and Truman fed him dinner and bathed him before putting him to bed that night, according to the documents.

Truman is next due in court on Dec. 2.

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