1 arrested, 1 sought after kids abandoned at Publix, Osceola deputies say

Women tried to steal $500 in groceries, cops say


KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Deputies arrested one of the women who investigators in say abandoned two children at a grocery store in Kissimmee on Sunday.

Investigators tell Local 6 the women, Jessica Barker and Kristen Grodetz, were seen trying to walk their shopping cart out of the Publix Supermarket on Blake Boulevard in Kissimmee with nearly $500 worth of groceries inside. They hadn't paid.

Grodetz was arrested on Tuesday after she turned herself in at a jail facility in Lee County.

Barker has not been located or arrested.

When a store worker confronted the pair, investigators say they quickly left the store with the 3-year-old child they had brought with them, leaving Barker's 11-year-old daughter and her friend behind inside the store.

The children told Osceola County investigators they were visiting from Lehigh Acres in Lee County, which is near Ft. Myers.

They also told deputies they were told to place items in their cart and leave without paying.

Investigators say they were able to contact Barker on her cellphone, at which time she said she would shortly return to pick up the girls. They say she never arrived.

"I just can't even imagine leaving my child in that circumstance," said shopper Rene Delisi.  "That's like a double whammy for those poor kids.  They have the worst example of thievery, and then they get abandoned. That's just horrible."

Investigators tell Local 6 the other child's mother traveled from Lee County to pick her child up after the incident.  She also took custody of Barker's daughter.

Lee County sheriff's investigators would not tell Local 6 if Grodetz was helping find Barker.

Grodetz will appear before a judge tomorrow morning in Lee County.

It's not clear when she will return to Osceola County to face charges.

About the Author: