BARTOW – In a region with an abundance of acting jobs available at the theme parks, there are plenty of people in Central Florida looking for the right kind of exposure.
On the other hand, the wrong kind of exposure can work against you. Just ask three men who were arrested on Wednesday, and are now in the Polk County Jail. They were charged with exposing themselves to the general public – only to learn the hard way that they were actually undercover detectives.
“It never ceases to amaze me when professionals such as preachers and law enforcement officers are engaged in such outrageous behavior,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “That type of behavior is not going to be tolerated in our parks. We want to ensure that all of our parks are safe for children and their families to enjoy.”
On Wednesday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office sent its vice detectives to conduct an undercover operation at the Peace River Park on State Road 640 in the Homeland area, just south of Bartow. The vice detectives were sent there following complaints from area residents that the park was attracting people engaging in sexual behavior in public.
During the sting operation, the male detectives made contact with various men in the park – and, according to the arrest report, they got an eyeful. Four of the men exposed themselves to the detectives, or asked the detectives to perform sex acts on them, noted Carrie S. Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her release on the arrests.
“One of the suspects, Matthew Clark, told the detectives that he is the senior pastor at the Blessed Assurance Temple, located at 1245 S. McAdoo Ave. in Bartow,” Eleazer said. “Another suspect, Carl Kitchen, told detectives he is a retired Ontario, Canada State Police officer.”
The men who got arrested included Clark, 33, of 1230 S. McAdoo Ave. in Bartow.
“During his conversation with the undercover detective, Clark told the detective ‘what kind of activity’ goes on at the park and described in graphic detail the sexual characteristics of another man he had met at the park,” Eleazer noted. “Clark asked the detective to perform a sex act on him. Clark was arrested and charged with soliciting a lewd act. Clark told the detectives he is a pastor and is married.”
Carl Robert Kitchen, 72, of Lions Head, Ontario, Canada, has a part-time Polk County residence in Fort Meade.
“Kitchen exposed himself to an undercover detective and asked the detective to perform a sex act on him,” Eleazer noted. “After his arrest, he told detectives he is a retired State Police officer from Canada, where he served for 31 years. He told the detectives he is married, and vacations in Florida during the winter months.”
Kitchen was arrested and charged with exposure of his sexual organ, and soliciting a lewd act.
Paul L. Wright, 41, of 21055 Franklin St. in Dade City, was also charged with soliciting a lewd act.
“Wright asked an undercover detective to perform a sex act on him,” Eleazer noted. “After his arrest, he told detectives that he works for Allied, Inc., and comes to the park on his lunch breaks to engage in sex acts with other men.”
Roger Griffin, 63, of 4600 Del Mar Drive in Lakeland, was arrested and charged with exposure of his sexual organ and committing a lewd act.
“Griffin exposed himself to an undercover detective and then asked the detective to perform a sex act on him,” Eleazer noted. “He told detectives he is married, disabled, and currently unemployed.”
Judd thanked the public for calling his office to report that this kind of activity was happening at a public place.
“As always, we appreciate those in the community who alert us to this type of behavior, so that we can do what’s right and put people who commit crimes like these in jail,” Judd said.
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