BRADENTON — A Manatee County fugitive’s love of golf has helped land him back in the hole.
Larry Laudig, wanted on a 2006 child molestation charge, was in the Manatee County jail Friday after his apprehension in Morelia, Mexico, a resort town popular with American golfers, sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren said.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Sid Jones collaborated with the U.S. Marshal’s Office and Mexican authorities to locate and extradite the 71-year-old Laudig during a 25-month investigation.
Laudig fled before his May 2007 sentencing date despite having agreed to a plea deal with the state attorney’s office, Warren said.
“It’s just good police work,” Warren said. “You just stay on it and don’t give up until you get your guy.”
But it was a tip from an “America’s Most Wanted” viewer that kept the ball rolling after Jones determined Laudig was somewhere in Mexico. Laudig was featured on a Sept. 27, 2008, episode, during which his affinity for golf was mentioned. A viewer remembered seeing him at a course in Morelia, Warren said.
“They do their 15 seconds of shame segments, and he was on,” he said. “‘America’s Most Wanted’ is a good avenue for getting things out there.”
Morelia is in south-central Mexico about 152 miles southeast of Guadalajara. It features the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tres Marias Golf Club, which hosts the LPGA’s Corona Championship.
Laudig’s initial arrest came July 14, 2006, after a girl younger than 12 told authorities he touched her inappropriately on several occasions between June 1 and July 11, 2006, at his Oak Ridge Drive home.
Laudig faces the original lewd and lascivious molestation charge plus a failure to appear charge. His bond, which was set at $2 million after he fled, will be reset at a hearing today, Warren said.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted on both charges, Warren said.