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Uber driver charged with sexual battery, kidnapping and burglary in Florida

Florida Uber driver charged with sexual battery
Posted at 8:07 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 12:58:10-04

An Uber driver was arrested Monday evening in Jupiter, Florida after a female passenger was picked up at a music festival, kidnapped and then sexually battered early Sunday, according to local police.

Police said the Uber driver, Gary Kitchings, 57, a house parent at an all-girls home in suburban West Palm Beach, picked up the victim at SunFest around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

After dropping off two other women, the victim was alone and said Kitchings flirted with her and tried to run his hand up her shirt.

A police report said that after refusing to touch his groin, she tried to escape. Kitchings then kidnapped the woman and told her he would kill her if she did not do what he asked. 

Police said Kitchings forced her to perform oral sex and then raped her inside her house. The victim, who said she took a picture of Kitchings' license's plate, was able to call 911 for help around 2 a.m.

After conducting an investigation, police arrested Gary Kitchings for kidnapping, sexual battery and burglary.

Kitchings is a former member of the U.S. Navy and has a long history in social services. 

Kitchings lives at the KidSanctuary Campus, a not-for-profit organization committed to providing a safe home for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

His employer, Place of Hope, says they have put Kitchings on leave pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. 

Place of Hope released this statement: 

"Our first priority is for the care and security of children and youth placed with Place of Hope.

Place of Hope takes any allegations of assault or abuse very seriously, given our mission to protect the vulnerable from abuse, neglect and abandonment."

Jupiter police said the Florida Department of Children and Families has been notified but officers are not aware of any other victims.   

Uber released the following statement regarding the arrest:

"What the rider reported is deeply disturbing. The driver has been removed from the app."

Uber states on their website that drivers have to pass various background checks including a criminal background.

Records show that Kitchings has no prior arrests or convictions in Palm Beach County. He was denied bond during a Tuesday morning court hearing and ordered to have no contact with the victim. If convicted, his offenses are punishable by life in prison