After five children were flashed at Columbus bus stops in November, police began searching for a man driving a black Honda with a white hood. It wasn't until Javonte Oden was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Stone Mountain for financial transaction card fraud that authorities connected his repainted Honda to the crimes, according to court testimony.
Oden, 23, faced five counts of child molestation, two counts of enticing child indecency and public indecency during a Friday morning Recorder's Court hearing. He also faced 11 counts of financial transaction card fraud and one count of exploiting an elder during a separate hearing.
According to Columbus Police Sex Crimes Sgt. Mark Richards, police received 13 reports over the course of several days that a man was exposing himself to children at school bus stops. In three of those cases, the victims reported that they were propositioned by a man driving a black Honda with a white hood.
On Nov. 19, a 15-year-old girl told police that a man driving the black Honda pulled up next to her after she got off the bus at the Mt. Pleasant Drive and Maplewood Drive stop at about 4:15 p.m. He reportedly exposed his genitals to her and sped off.
Three other teens, aged between 15 and 16, reported a man driving a car with a matching description exposed himself near the bus stop at Valleybrook Road and Amber Drive between 4:45 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The next day, a 12-year-old Rothschild Middle School student she was waiting at the bus stop at Lawyers Lane and Schaul Street at about 8:25 a.m. A 20 to 25-year-old black man driving a car with a matching description pulled up and demanded she get in. He reportedly began masturbating before speeding off.
Oden was later arrested by U.S. Marshals in Stone Mountain and transferred to Muscogee County Jail on Jan. 22. When asked why he allegedly painted his Honda, he said he didn't know investigators were looking for a car matching that description.
Richards noted during the hearing that Oden did not match victims' descriptions in all 13 cases. Police may be looking for another suspect. Anyone with more information should contact Investigative Services at 706-653-3400.
In addition to the child molestation charges, Oden is accused of stealing his 84-year-old great-grandmother's debit card, which he allegedly used in 11 separate transactions.
Police told the court during the second hearing that Oden had been living with his great-grandmother until Dec. 15, when he was allegedly kicked out for stealing an undisclosed amount of cash. His great-grandmother had asked him to use the cash to pay a cable bill and phone bill.
When he allegedly kept the money instead, his great-grandmother asked him to leave. She later discovered he allegedly used her card to pay for $2,160 worth of goods, the officer said. However, because her phone service was cut off not long after she kicked Oden out, she was unable to report the crime until Dec. 30.
A relative told the court that Oden called her after he was kicked out to ask if he could borrow money.
"I asked him what he did this time, and he said he hadn't paid the bills and kept the money," she said. "This is not the first time he's done this, nor will it be the last time. His great-grandmother has signed for him and taken care of him all this time, and this is her repayment."
Judge Michael Cielinski noted during the hearing that Oden had one previous count of child molestation on his record. He set his bond at $198,000.