Uber driver Gary Kitchings of West Palm Beach, Florida has been arrested on Monday after he allegedly raped a passenger he picked up from a music festival on Sunday morning.
Kitchings, 57, faces multiple charges, including kidnapping and sexual battery. He was denied bond during a court hearing on Tuesday morning and ordered to have no contact with the victim. News sources did not name an attorney for Kitchings.
According to the arrest report, the alleged incident took place on Sunday morning. Kitchings picked up the victim and two other women from SunFest. After he dropped off the two other passengers, the victim told police that Kitchings started flirting with her and tried to fondle her.
Kitchings reportedly told her that he would kill her if she refused to do what he asked. He allegedly forced her to perform oral sex and then took her to her house, where he raped her. The victim took a picture of his license plate as he drove away and called the police for help. Police arrested Kitchings the following day.
Kitchings is a former member of the Navy. He and his wife are house parents at an all-girls home in a West Palm Beach suburb. The home is part of the KidSanctuary Campus, a non-profit organization that provides a home for abused and abandoned children.
His employer, Place of Hope, released a statement saying Kitchings has been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Police have also informed the Florida Department of Children and Families, but investigators have not found any other victims.
Uber released a statement saying the allegations are “deeply disturbing,” and that the driver has been banned from using the app. Uber drivers must pass a series of background checks before they are approved and Kitchings has no priors.
This is the second case of an Uber driver involved in criminal activity that has been reported in South Florida this year. On February 7, Uber driver Brandi Leigh Begerow of Hialeah, Florida was arrested for allegedly stealing cash, a gun, and other valuables from a passenger’s home. Begerow, 33, faced charges for grand theft of a firearm and armed burglary. She was held without bond at Broward County Jail.
According to the arrest report, Begerow picked up Mark Taiclet, 48, from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on January 30 and drove him to his home. Surveillance video from outside Taiclet’s home shows him shaking hands with Begerow before he took out his bags from the vehicle and walked into his house. Begerow then followed him inside. She reportedly spent four hours in the home and stole several items before returning to her car and driving off.
Taiclet learned of the theft when he woke up the following day. He told police that he was drugged and robbed by an Uber driver. An email he received from Uber confirmed that the name of the driver who picked him up at the airport was Brandi Begerow. She was arrested a week later.