Exclusive: Former Collier County teacher arrested in S.C. in grandson kidnapping case

Zachary Byrd

Zachary Byrd

A former Collier County teacher was arrested Tuesday in South Carolina in connection with the kidnapping of his 14-year-old grandson.

Authorities in Myrtle Beach, S.C., along with the U.S. Marshals Task Force, arrested Donald Byrd, 59, at a condominium around noon on a California warrant for child stealing. Investigators believe Byrd kidnapped his grandson, Zachary Byrd, from the child’s mother’s home in California on Sept. 2, 2011.

Byrd was taken to a Horry County, S.C., jail to await extradition back to Los Angeles. Zachary Byrd was taken safely into the custody of the state’s Department of Social Services to be evaluated, said Sgt. Jeff Benton, a spokesman for the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.

The alleged kidnapping came after years of a contentious family dynamic in which custody of Zachary switched hands from his mother, Stephanie Byrd, to his grandparents, Donald and Joyce Byrd, several times during the boy’s childhood.

Zachary grew up with his grandparents in Naples Park, but in 2011, his mother regained custody and he went to live with her for the first time in California.

A little more than a month after Zachary's arrival, investigators say the then-12-year-old left his mother's house with his grandfather, Donald, a former middle school teacher in Collier County. A home security camera shows the boy tiptoeing around the house, talking to someone outside the window, then leaving.

Benton said Donald Byrd at first gave deputies a fake name when they knocked on his door Tuesday. After being pressed further, he admitted he was Donald Byrd.

“Finally he said, ‘Listen, I’m who you’re looking for. You got me. Here’s my grandson,’” Benton said.

Golden Gate-based private investigator Victor Ortino, who was hired by the teen’s mother, Stephanie Byrd, said his investigation led him to South Carolina after hundreds of hours of work. He said he called law enforcement after spotting Donald Byrd outside the condominium complex.

Neighbors told Ortino they believed the two had been living in Myrtle Beach since May.

Stay with naplesnews.com as this story develops.

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