An armed robbery, using a stun gun, at the Citgo gas station in the 2800 block of US-1 in St Augustine Saturday evening may have been a pit stop for a pair of wanted fugitives on the lamb from Flagler County, according to police reports gathered by Historic City News.
Earlier in the evening, about 7:00 p.m., investigators say 22-year-old Guiseppe “Joe” Verdone, Jr., called King’s Palace and placed a food delivery order to 78 Bayside Drive in Palm Coast. The owner of the restaurant, 43-year-old Ming Gong, went to the vacant home to complete the delivery when he reports that he was confronted by Verdone, who told him he was a police officer.
Statements collected at the crime scene indicate that Verdone assaulted Gong; restrained him with handcuffs, and forced him into the back seat of his own delivery vehicle. As Verdone traveled westbound on Palm Coast Parkway near the Palm Coast Community Center, detectives believe Gong jumped, or was pushed, from the moving vehicle. With no way to break his fall, Gong suffered life-threatening head injuries as he hit the pavement.
Flagler County Fire Rescue transported Gong to Florida Hospital Flagler for emergency treatment of his injuries. He was stabilized and airlifted to the trauma center at UF Health Jacksonville, where he underwent surgery.
Along the way, detectives believe Verdone met up with a 15-year-old girl who had been reported to law enforcement as “missing” — together they fled the area. The stolen vehicle was observed early Sunday in Liberty County, Georgia, where a chase ensued. Verdone, and the missing teenage girl, were taken into custody when the car was finally stopped in Hardeeville, South Carolina.
Verdone remains in custody at the Jasper County Detention Facility in Hardeeville, while he awaits extradition back to Flagler County. In addition to charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery, robbery and grand theft in Flagler County, Verdone has been charged with felony interference in the custody of a juvenile. According to authorities, Verdone has been arrested in Flagler County eight times –four of those times, since 2010, were as an adult. Together, they also face charges in South Carolina, Georgia as well as St Johns County.