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Victim of Ponte Vedra Beach home invasion says teen at the center of Amber Alert 'was in on it'

by: Katie McKee, Deanna Bettineschi, Action News Jax Updated:

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Deputies in St. Johns County are questioning a teen who was at the center of a statewide Amber Alert on Tuesday.

Marcus Hatch, 16, was found safe Tuesday afternoon in Jacksonville. Now, investigators want to know what he knows about an armed home invasion in Ponte Vedra Beach, where he was reportedly kidnapped.

Only Sky Action News Jax captured aerials over the apartment complex where deputies say it happened. Three people inside an apartment were tied up and held at gunpoint.

Action News Jax obtained surveillance images of a person of interest. Deputies say he used the victims' stolen credit cards at two gas stations.

Action News Jax’s Katie McKee spoke to a couple who were tied up in their own home.

Brandon Giannuzzi, 23, and his girlfriend said they believe the home invasion was a setup, and that Hatch knows his roommate.

Giannuzzi said he and his girlfriend spent the entire morning with detectives after they were held at gunpoint and tied up in their home late Monday night after receiving a knock on their door.

“When I open the door, they came running in with guns,” Giannuzzi said.

Gianuzzi said their roommate came home in the middle of it and was also tied up and threatened.

“They shoved the gun in his mouth, put it on his head, hit him with him,” Giannuzzi said. 

Giannuzzi detailed the incident in his call to 911.

Giannuzzi said the third suspect arrived with 16-year-old Hatch, someone Gianuzzi said he recognized as a friend of a friend.

“They made it look like he was getting robbed too or something, but nah, he was in on it,” Giannuzzi said.

The suspects took off with Hatch in the couple’s gray Subaru, and an Amber Alert was issued for the 16-year-old.

Acting on a tip, deputies found the teen a few hours later in Jacksonville. He was OK and acting on his own free will.

Action News Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said he believes this was not a random crime.

“They knew what they wanted to do. They knew what or who they wanted to get out of there,” Jefferson said. “It's not a cause for concern with the community to think that they could be next because the perpetrators generally in a crime like this know the victims.”

Search for suspects, person of interest

Deputies in St. Johns County are still looking for three suspects and a person of interest who could be tied to the home invasion in Ponte Vedra Beach on Monday night.

They say one is a man about 5 feet 9 inches tall with dreadlocks about 4 to 5 inches long. They’re woven into 12 to 18 pony tails with beads.

They also say he has light facial hair, with a silver cap on each of his top four teeth. He was last seen wearing a red hoodie and black sweatpants and answered to the name Trey.

The second suspect is described as a man about 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds wearing a camo jacket with a tan cargo vest and pants.

He was wearing dark-colored Vans shoes and a black-and-white beanie

The third suspect is a man about 6 feet 2 inches tall, 180 to 190 pounds with a tattoo near the corner of his eye. Deputies said he wore a camo jacket and blue jeans.

He also had black Jordans with red soles and a black beanie cap.

On Tuesday afternoon, deputies sent out a picture of a man who is also a person of interest.

Surveillance pictures showed the person driving a white jeep.

“We can categorize this as a person of interest. He is an individual who has used the victim's credit card from the home invasion which was taken during the home invasion and used at two different gas stations,” said St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan.

Mulligan said they believe this man came into contact with the suspects or a third party at some point in order for him to obtain the stolen credit card.