By Pat Raia
A Brooksville woman is facing multiple charges after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a New York teen that she met in an online chat room.
In a written statement Hernando County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer (PIO) Mike Terry said that last year the Sheriff's office received information about a missing New York teen who was possibly in Hernando County.
The then-15-year-old had allegedly disappeared from his home and texted his mother that he was in the gated community in “Brooksville” or “Brookridge.”
A friend of the boy told police in New York that the teen had paid another to drive him to Florida to meet a woman he had met in an online chat room for those experiencing depression. That friend later described the woman as in her thirties with long brown hair and a 9-year-old child.
On May 26, 2020, acting on the subsequent missing person report, Hernando County law enforcement located the teen at a residence on Scepter Avenue in Brooksville, and identified the woman as 32-year-old Kelley Gaudette.
Initially, Gaudette denied knowing the whereabouts of the missing boy but eventually went into the house to get a teen to talk to the investigating deputy.
The teen told the deputy that Gaudette had bought him a cell phone so that they could communicate, and that she had paid a friend to drive him from New York to Florida. He also said that he was fleeing from a verbally abusive family situation and that he was in Florida with his mother's permission. He denied having a sexual relationship with Gaudette.
He was subsequently removed from Gaudette's residence and taken to a facility where his mother could pick him up.
During the ongoing New York investigation, the boy's mother said that he suffered from mental illness and did not have access to his medication. She later told investigators that she had discovered nude images and videos of Gaudette on a thumb drive belonging to her son.
Meanwhile, Gaudette told investigators that she viewed the teen as a son and denied any inappropriate relationship with him. Instead, she said that she paid for someone to drive the boy to Florida, and offered him a place to stay because she believed that he was considering self-harm.
In May 2021, Hernando County Sheriff's detectives received a recorded interview conducted by law enforcement authorities in New York. In it the teen said that Gaudette had used an online cell phone app to send him nude photos and videos of herself and that upon arriving at her residence, he and Gaudette engaged in a sexual relationship.
When Hernando County Sheriff's investigators interviewed Gaudette again, she denied having an inappropriate relationship with the boy. After being advised of the evidence, she requested an attorney.
On March 29, Hernando Sheriff's Office personnel arrested Gaudette and charged her with Lewd and Lascivious Battery on a victim older than 12 but younger than 16 years of age; Traveling to Meet a Minor; Unlawful Use of a Two-way Communication Device and Transmission of Harmful Materials to a Minor using an Electronic Device.
She is being held on a $19,000 bond.
According to Terry, the arrest took place nearly a year after the probe began because the alleged victim was returned to New York and that interviews in the then-ongoing investigation took place there.