The 16-year-old was allegedly lured by a man who befriended him on a video gaming platform, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported after speaking with the boy and his relieved mother Friday.READ MORE: MLB Owners Impose Lockout After CBA Expires
“When the FBI knocked on his door, he told him to go hide in a closet and my son did it,” said Lashawnda Collins, who noted her son is developmentally more like a 10-year-old.
Collins said Valente befriended Jahon through private messaging on the PlayStation gaming platform. She said he convinced Jahon that his parents didn’t want him.
“Saying that I don’t love him and I would sell him for $2. That right there, that’s evil,” Collins said. “He was trying to groom my child for something. Maybe to lure other kids.”
Investigators believe Valente drove 14 hours – more than 900 miles – to suburban Atlanta to pick up Jahon. Then, the two drove back to New York.
Jahon said they spent long hours gaming and made trips to get Asian food at a market in Eastchester. Valente threw away the boy’s phone, bought him a new one and ordered new clothes for him online.
“You thought he was your friend,” Aiello said to Jahon.
“Yeah, but I was wrong, you know,” Jahon said.
“How do you feel about being home?” Aiello asked.READ MORE: Federal Hearing Focused On Conditions At Rikers Island
“It feels better than being with him,” Jahon said.
Investigators used a variety of technologies to track Jahon to Eastchester.
“A kind kid. This is a heartbreaking story. I can’t say it any other way,” said Jeff Onorato, who’s been the suspect’s neighbor for years.
Onorato said he’s relieved Jahon was not physically injured.
Johan’s mother said there is mental trauma.
“This was so scary. It was scary,” Collins said.
The entire family is seeking counseling after living through a nightmare.
Valente is being held in Westchester County and faces extradition to Georgia on a preliminary charge for interstate interference with custody.
Further investigation could lead to additional charges.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family pay for counseling and travel expenses related to the case. To donate, click here.MORE NEWS: First U.S. Case Of Omicron Variant Detected In California
Editor’s note: This story was first published Nov. 5.