The remains of a woman found buried in a Neptune Beach backyard last week have been positively identified as missing grandmother Kristina French.
Police said the 53-year-old was found Friday buried in a shallow grave at the home of her son and grandson.
The lawyer for French's grandson said 15-year-old Logan Mott, who was detained while trying to drive his dead grandmother's car into Canada on Friday night, denies having anything to do with French's death, according to our News4Jax partner.
Although French's remains were positively identified by the Medical Examiner, police have not yet said how she died.
Logan was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents about 7 p.m. Friday while driving the wrong way on Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, according to the Sheriff's Office.
"Officers at the Peace Bridge encountered Logan Mott who had made a wrong turn onto the bridge," U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs liaison Aaron Bowker said. "During the primary inspection, officers became aware that Mr. Mott was subject of a warrant for grand theft auto out of Florida."
Bowker told reporters at a press conference Saturday that Mott "had no idea where he was going."
"The only thing I have from the initial inspection was that it was a normal inspection at the border that we encounter. We encounter wrong turns all the time," Bowker said. "Obviously, he’s underage, but, believe it or not, that happens all the time as well."
The warrant was issued for Mott’s arrest on suspicion of stealing a car owned by French. Mott is also a person of interest in her death.
Bowker said Mott was taken into custody without incident. After Mott was in custody, agents were advised that he was a person interest in French's death.
"Mott has been detained and is currently being held by the Buffalo Police Department on the grand theft auto warrant," Bowker said. "CBP is working closing with the Buffalo Police Department and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to further their investigation."
According to records, Mott was driving on a learner's permit he received on Sept. 14.
Mott’s mother, Carrie Campbell-Mott, told our News4Jax partner that detectives flew up to meet him Saturday morning, but she’s not sure exactly how to get to him. She added that she has filed a complaint with the ACLU.
"I've emailed and left voicemails with the Buffalo Border Patrol with no response," Campbell-Mott said. "The detective who has been working the case has not answered my texts or calls since last night. A detective told me last night he was flying out today."
News4Jax spoke with criminal defense attorney Reid Hart about what Mott can expect moving forward.
Hart said the active investigation is confidential and there is no requirement for authorities to notify parents of anything.
“My understanding is that (the) JSO is going up in an attempt to speak with him to the extent that he is going to be willing to speak with them. Obviously, he will have the right to remain silent if he so chooses,” Hart said.
Currently, Mott is only a person of interest in his grandmother’s death, but if police follow through with murder charges, Hart said he believes Mott might not be prosecuted as a minor for a few reasons.
“I would expect that he is going to be prosecuted as an adult, especially just based on how the events unfolded with finding her in the shallow grave in the backyard,” Hart said. “If he is charged as a juvenile, they only have authority to hold him until he is 19. The state will typically charge as an adult just for purposes of sentencing.”
Mott's attorney, Dominic Saraceno, said the teen is hanging in there, but is extremely upset.
"Logan adamantly denies being involved in her death," Saraceno said. "He loved his grandmother very much, and he was extremely upset when he found out what happened to her. We would ask the public to not jump to any conclusion or rush to judgment until a thorough investigation is completed."
Mott can waive or fight extradition back to Florida. Saraceno said an extradition hearing will be scheduled this week.
“That type of information is exceedingly confidential, even when somebody is moved within the state of Florida,” Hart said. “Family, attorneys, no one is giving any sort of notice or has any knowledge as far as when that is going to happen.”
Hart said Mott could be back in Florida within the next couple of weeks.
Active crime scene
Crime scene tape still surrounds the block of Seagate Avenue where French’s body was found. Four police evidence vans are parked in front of the home where she was found.
Monday marked the sixth day since police started their investigation into Mott and French's death. On Wednesday, investigators found evidence of foul play and a potential gravesite. The following day police dug up the woman's body.
Gil Smith, a retired Jacksonville sheriff's officer and News4Jax crime and safety analyst, said police are likely sifting through dirt for possible evidence in the ground.
"They want to take anything that could be of evidence to this case, so that could take several days just to go several inches deep into the ground and cover the entire grave," Smith said. "It’s a slow process."
Seagate Avenue has remained largely unchanged while investigators search for evidence.
"They leave the entire area closed and locked down, (so) that way they can say, 'The scene was protected from weather, from animals, from anybody coming in on the scene,’" Smith said. "They need to maintain that integrity of the case until the case is over."
In the meantime, Smith said the Sheriff's Office will continue with a thorough investigation locally and in New York.
"Detectives are going to go up and talk to Mr. Mott. No matter what he tells them, that’s going to come back to this crime scene, so they want to match up what he tells them with the actual evidence at the scene," Smith said.