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Cocaine use precedes abduction of girl, 4 Suspect in N. Tonawanda incident described by brother as not meaning any harm

The short-lived abduction incident that led to a nationwide Amber Alert on Monday night for a missing 4-year-old North Tonawanda girl started with a bathroom break -- and two snorts of cocaine.

The drama ended happily for Serenity Platts and her family, with the girl returned safely just after midnight Tuesday.

But for David J. Grover, who is accused of abducting Serenity, the incident is further evidence of a downward spiral of drug abuse.

This was not a malicious act, Grover's younger brother, Kevin, said Tuesday outside North Tonawanda City Court, adding that his brother did not intend to harm the girl.

"He was on coke," the younger Grover said. "My brother loses his mind every time he does coke."

David Grover, 29, of Belmont Avenue, Town of Tonawanda, stood quietly in court as his public defender, James A. Rizzo, entered a plea of not guilty to felony kidnapping, a charge that, upon conviction, could result up to 25 years in prison.

Grover also was charged with driving while impaired by drugs, endangering the welfare of a child, fleeing from police, reckless driving and several traffic violations.

City Judge William R. Lewis ordered him held in Niagara County Jail after not posting $200,000 bail.

In 2005, Grover pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempted second-degree burglary in the Town of Niagara.

Grover's statements to Detectives Thomas Krantz and Larry Kuebler were made available Tuesday to The Buffalo News.

Grover, nicknamed "D.J.," told police he was driving through North Tonawanda about 8 p.m. Monday when he had an urgent need to use the bathroom. He said that he stopped at the Tremont Street home of Serenity's parents, Christa and Jason Platts, who were not at home, but that Serenity's grandmother let him in.

Grover used the bathroom and snorted two lines of cocaine, he told police, then played a bowling game with Serenity. He also said he had taken two doses of Lortab, a painkiller.

Serenity, he said, asked to see his car, and he obliged. The girl climbed into the back seat of his gray Acura and he took her on a four-hour ride through the Tonawandas and Amherst.

Why didn't he answer his cell phone as police and family members tried to get through?

"I always turn it on silent when I'm using cocaine," he told detectives. "I don't want to talk to anybody. I try and disappear by secluding myself from everybody. I drive around to help me cope."

Grover said he never stopped during the drive, and dropped off the girl a few doors away from the Platts' house shortly after midnight Tuesday. He could not get closer to the house because there was so much commotion there, he said. Grover said Serenity remained in the back seat throughout the ride, at one time asking for ice cream.

The little girl corroborated much of Grover's statements in a conversation she had with Juvenile Aide Detective Karen Smith, police said.

"She said D.J. is her friend . . .," Smith wrote in a one-page statement. "She said D.J. didn't touch her anywhere or hurt her. Her clothes stayed on the whole time. She said she likes D.J. He told her to duck down in the back seat because of the police. He kept telling her that he's taking her back to her house. She said nothing happened that made her scared, sad or mad. He stopped the car, and she got out."

Serenity was back in her North Tonawanda home doing well -- "clearly better than her parents," Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said Tuesday.

"The family is completely overwhelmed," Wojtaszek said.

Kevin Grover said that he spoke with his brother by phone before the court appearance and that David said he was "beside himself and sick" about what happened.

North Tonawanda Police Capt. Roger Zgolak said Serenity's grandmother, Robin David, who had been watching the girl, was unaware that the girl's mother and father had a "falling-out" with Grover.

After dropping off Serenity about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, Grover led police on a 10-minute chase through North Tonawanda and the Town of Tonawanda until being stopped on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

"He just stopped in the center median and surrendered," Zgolak said.

Even during the abduction incident, the Platts and Grover families have looked to support each other.

Kevin Grover, who also is a friend of the Platts family, helped search for Serenity on Monday night. He nodded to Jason Platts as Serenity's father came into court to watch David Grover's arraignment.

After the arraignment, the two men hugged.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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