SENECA, S.C. – A decomposing body found in a South Carolina home earlier this month has been identified as a child sexual predator who was on the run for more than 16 years.
Frederick Cecil McLean, 70, was wanted by San Diego County authorities on multiple counts of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. He was deemed a high risk to young girls.
“One alleged victim, now an adult, reported McLean assaulted her more than 100 times, starting when she was 5 and ending about seven years later,” the marshals said in a news release. “An arrest warrant was issued for him in 2005, and he was added to the U.S. Marshals Service ‘15 Most Wanted’ fugitive list in 2006.”
According to authorities, McLean had been sexually molesting young girls for about 25 years. A Jehovah’s Witness, he found his victims through people he met at church.
He had at least eight known victims as of 2004, the marshals said.
Federal court documents show that relatives and church members went to McLean’s house in May 2004 and confronted him about the sexual abuse allegations.
“McLean admitted the allegations and said ‘he knew this day was coming,’” according to a criminal complaint.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation into the allegations, but McLean refused to be interviewed in person. He “made extensive admissions of guilt during a phone interview” with a detective, the records state.
In the summer and fall of 2004, McLean divorced his wife, sold his assets and moved away from his family. He conducted financial business with his wife on roadsides and in secret, out of fear of arrest, the court documents allege.
The last contact McLean had with his family was a package he sent in March 2005. It was postmarked Eugene, Oregon. At the time he fled prosecution, he faced 17 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14.
Authorities described McLean as a frugal man who may have sought work as an auto mechanic or restoring vintage cars. He was believed to have $100,000 in cash when he fled.
At one point, marshals called him the most wanted child predator in the U.S.
McLean’s whereabouts were unknown until Nov. 6, when a concerned neighbor in Seneca, South Carolina, went to check on an elderly man by the name of James Fitzgerald, who had not been seen in weeks.
The neighbor found Fitzgerald’s decomposing body inside the home where he had reportedly lived for about 15 years.
At a Nov. 15 autopsy, the dead man’s fingerprints were taken and compared to those of McLean, confirming his true identity.
“We wish McLean’s fate had been determined by a court of law 15 years ago,” Steve Stafford, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of California, said in a statement. “The investigators working on this case never gave up.
“We hope McLean’s death brings some sense of closure for the victims and their families, especially knowing he can never hurt another child.”
The case remains active as investigators try to determine if McLean had help eluding capture.
“During his years on the run McLean used numerous aliases and also lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Anderson, South Carolina,” Stafford said. “Because of his alleged crimes, we are concerned there may be other victims out there.”
Anyone with information on McLean or his crimes should contact their nearest U.S. Marshals Service office or local law enforcement agency.