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Children set out for N.Y. on foot

By THOMAS LAKE
Published February 3, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - They left before dawn while their mother slept, determined to walk to New York. Dominic was 5, and Elizabeth was 3. They wanted to see a man called G-Pop.

The children escaped through the sliding glass door of their grandmother's apartment. Carrying a small electric fan, they left the Summer Trace complex and headed up Rowan Road. It was 3 a.m. Thursday. They had nearly 1,200 miles to go.

Rory Marchido was driving home from work when he glimpsed what he thought were two dogs, leashed together, walking down the sidewalk. He looked closer. The leash was really a power cord. The dogs were actually children.

Marchido looked around for an adult. He did not find one. As another driver stopped to talk to the children, Marchido called the sheriff's office.

Deputy Steven Papola arrived at 3:33 a.m. He approached the children.

Do you know who I am? he asked.

A policeman, Dominic said.

Are you afraid of me?

No, Dominic said.

Would you like to come and sit in my police car and talk to me?

Papola held out his arms and the children came.

Where were you walking? he asked.

North to see G-Pop, Dominic said.

After many more questions, Dominic told them where his grandmother's house was. They hadn't gone far. The deputies delivered them. Their mother and grandmother woke up. Crying and hugging and applesauce ensued, and Dominic collapsed on the couch.

No one was charged with wrongdoing in the case. The children live in Tarpon Springs with their mother, Jennifer Holley, but all three were staying the night at Summer Trace with the children's grandmother, Shawn Tersigni. She usually secures the sliding back door with a drop bar. That night she forgot.

G-Pop is their great-grandfather. He lives in upstate New York. The children also hoped to see Tersigni's boyfriend, Randy Rowe, whom they call Pop-Pop. No one knows why the children brought along the electric fan.

When Pop-Pop heard the story, he decided to visit next week from New York. No need to walk up, he said to tell the kids. I'm driving down.

The children slept at home in Tarpon Springs the next night. Their mother slept on the couch, guarding the door.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 00:11:08]


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