Eighteen years ago, a gardener charged with molesting a little girl jumped bail and sent his wife a letter saying he would never return.
He was wrong. Authorities on Tuesday said they had apprehended Jeffrey Reid Parish and returned him to the Santa Barbara County Jail. They had found him in a Guatemalan mountain town where he had been living under the name Blake.
“Nobody there knew whether it was first name or last,” said Det. Ted Toedte of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. “He was just Blake.”
FBI agents and Guatemalan police found him in Panajachel, 90 miles west of Guatemala City, where he had scraped by for years doing odd jobs. Toedte said others may be charged on suspicion of helping him to remain at large.
Parish had been charged in connection with the 1994 molestation of a 4-year-old girl who was a neighbor in Carpinteria. Officials initially believed he was in Mexico, where he had spent some time.
As part of a routine effort to develop new leads in old cases, detectives took another look at his files early in 2011. Six months later, they distributed an “age-enhanced” portrait of Parish based on a jail mug shot taken in 1994. With new information, the trail led to Guatemala, where he was apprehended July 12 without incident.
Toedte declined to reveal the new information, saying that it could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
Parish, a U.S. citizen, was deported by Guatemalan authorities and brought back to the United States on Saturday, according to the Sheriff’s Department. He was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail. No bail was set, authorities said.
Sheriff’s detectives said they believe he may have molested others and urged anyone with information to call (805) 681-4150.