US Marshals Find Body of Accused Serial Child Molester After 16-Year Hunt

November 24, 2021Noelle Wiehe
Accused child molester Frederick Cecil McLean fugitive

Accused child molester Frederick Cecil McLean, 70, avoided law enforcement for 16 years. His remains were found rotting in his South Carolina home, where he lived under an alias, Nov. 6, 2021. US Marshals Service photos. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

US marshals and cops in California would’ve preferred for accused serial child molester Frederick Cecil McLean to die behind bars. Instead, the 70-year-old fugitive’s body was found rotting away in his South Carolina home.

“The case deputy had expressed some, I guess, regret that he wasn’t going to spend the rest of his life in jail,” Dave Oney, spokesperson for the US Marshals Service, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “But it’s a relief to the victims and the families of the victims.”

McLean’s decomposing remains were discovered Nov. 6 inside a residence along Jennifer Lane in Seneca. A concerned neighbor who hadn’t seen him recently found his corpse and called authorities. Neither she nor any other neighbors realized McLean was on the US Marshals’ list of the “15 Most Wanted” fugitives. They knew him as James Fitzgerald.

Property deed records turned up by Coffee or Die show a home on the block listed in that name. He’d been on the run from law enforcement for 16 years and is known to have used five aliases, not including “James Fitzgerald.”

Accused Serial Child Molester
Accused serial child molester Frederick Cecil McLean as depicted with varying facial hair. US Marshals Service illustrations.

“Those who are on the list are not only the worst of the worst, but they represent all types of egregious crimes, from homicide suspects to child sexual molesters,” Oney said.

On May 15, 2004, relatives and church members went to McLean’s home in California to confront him with allegations of child molestation, according to a federal criminal complaint filed against him four years later while he was hiding from authorities.

McLean told the churchgoers he “knew this day was coming.” Nine days later, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department investigators opened a file on his case. Refusing to be interviewed in person, McLean “made extensive admissions of guilt” during a telephone interview with a detective, the court records show.

Accused Serial Child Molester
Accused child molester Frederick Cecil McLean, 70, avoided law enforcement for 16 years. US Marshals Service Most Wanted poster.

McLean divorced his wife, sold all his assets, and moved away from his relatives. But the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force reported that he allegedly continued to conduct secret financial transactions with his ex-wife on the side of a roadway. 

McLean also allegedly gave a map marked “This mustn’t get in the hands of authorities!!!” to his father-in-law in case McLean’s ex-wife needed funds, according to federal court records.

On Jan. 20, 2005, authorities obtained an arrest warrant from San Diego County Superior Court, charging McLean with 17 counts of lewd and lascivious misconduct involving a child or children under the age of 14.

Posing as a devout member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, McLean had spent 25 years molesting at least eight children linked to the church, according to his federal “wanted” poster.

Accused Serial Child Molester
Accused child molester Frederick Cecil McLean avoided law enforcement for 16 years. US Marshals Service photos.

San Diego detectives traced a package postmarked from Eugene, Oregon, sent to McLean’s son in early 2005, but then all leads to his whereabouts vanished.

He landed on the most-wanted list the following year. US marshals suspected he was living off $100,000 he took from California. With a $25,000 bounty on the fugitive, federal agents received tips that McLean was hiding in Mexico, Costa Rica, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada, but none panned out.

“The discovery of Frederick McLean’s body marks an end to the manhunt, but the investigation continues,” US Marshals Service director Ronald Davis said in a release. “I want to personally thank the men and women of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the Oconee County Coroner’s Office who dedicated hundreds of man hours helping the marshals identify the body and gather evidence allowing us to gain a better picture of McLean’s life as a fugitive.”

US Marshal Steve Stafford of the Southern District of California said McLean likely lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Anderson, South Carolina, while on the lam. Concerned there might be other victims there, he urged anyone with information about the fugitive to contact law enforcement.

Read Next: Do You Know This Man? Feds Seek Help Identifying Child Victims

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved