James Duckett was the only police officer on patrol on the night of 05/11/87 in the city of Mascotte, Florida. 

Around 10:00 p.m., eleven-year-old Teresa McAbee walked to a convenience store to purchase a pencil and, after leaving the store, stopped to talk to a sixteen-year-old boy outside the store. 

Duckett arrived at the convenience store shortly afterward and, after asking the store clerk the age of McAbee, he approached McAbee and the boy.  After a brief conversation, Duckett told McAbee to go home, leaving the boy to wait for his uncle.  When the boy’s uncle arrived, the boy and his uncle witnessed McAbee getting into the passenger side of Duckett’s patrol car.

At 11:00 p.m., McAbee’s mother walked to the convenience store, looking for her daughter.  The store clerk told the mother that McAbee had left with Duckett and was probably at the Mascotte police station. 

When no one was found at the Mascotte police station, the mother drove to nearby Groveland police station, where she reported her daughter missing.  The Groveland police officer contacted a Mascotte police officer, and Duckett arrived at the Groveland police station within twenty minutes.  Duckett used a picture of McAbee to make a flyer that he said he would post at convenience stores in the area, however, he failed to do so.

The store clerk reported that the police drove by the store every hour, but she reported that Duckett came by at 9:30 p.m. but did not return for a few hours.  Additionally, Duckett made no radio calls between 9:50 p.m. and 12:10 a.m.

The next morning McAbee’s body was found in a lake less than one mile from the convenience store where she was last seen.  Medical testimony demonstrated that she was sexually assaulted while alive and then drowned.  Blood and a pubic hair, later identified as probable matches to Duckett, were found in her underpants and semen was found on her jeans.

Distinct tire tracks found at the scene were matched to the tires found on the Mascotte Police Department patrol cars.  Duckett’s and McAbee’s fingerprints were found on the hood of the car, indicating that she was sitting backwards on the hood of the car.

At trial, three girls between the ages of seventeen and nineteen testified that in the six months prior to the murder, Duckett had given rides to each of them and had made sexual advances.  One of the girls testified that she participated in sexual acts with Duckett. 


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