Sheriff: Missing dad of Bengals player is safe, in good health

Author: The Associated Press; Rachel Cox-Rosen/ WINK News
Published: Updated:
Jean Odney Alexandre (Credit: OCSO)

The missing father of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mackensie Alexander turned up early Thursday at a ranger station at a Florida state park, sheriff’s officials said.

Jean Alexandre, 65, was reported to be in good health and will be reunited with this family, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office said in a Twitter post Thursday morning. He walked up to the ranger station at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Okeechobee in central Florida.

The sheriff’s office offered no additional details.

“We are all relieved and grateful that he was found, and that he was found well,” Brian Pakett, an attorney representing Mackensie Alexander, told The Associated Press on Thursday morning. “That was my client’s sole concern.”

Alexandre, a Haitian immigrant who uses a French spelling of the family’s surname, went missing after going to pick palmetto berries Monday, officials said. A missing persons report was released Wednesday.

His son, cornerback Mackensie Alexander, was jailed Wednesday on a misdemeanor battery charge after deputies say he beat up a man shortly after returning to Florida to help search for his missing father.

Alexander, 26, and another man, 28-year-old Evins Clement, were arrested by Collier County sheriff’s deputies Tuesday night. Alexander grew up in the small farming community of Immokalee where his family still lives. Bail for both men was set at $2,000 each, and they were both released Wednesday.

Alexander had left Bengals training camp earlier Tuesday to assist in the search.

According to a missing person’s report released Wednesday, Mauricet Etienne, 56, told investigators that after several hours of picking, he could not find Alexandre and spent three hours searching for him before returning to Immokalee to pick up Alexandre’s wife, Marie. They returned to Okeechobee County, where they searched for another 45 minutes before heading back to Immokalee and calling deputies.

Etienne told investigators he has no ill will toward Alexandre and he agreed he should have called law enforcement when he first discovered him missing. But he said he was afraid because he had been previously told by deputies that he did not have permission to pick berries in that area.

The arrest report for Alexander said he and Clement had gone to the home of the man he’s accused of assaulting “to discuss a previous incident.” Collier County sheriff’s officials declined to say if the man is Etienne, citing a Florida law that shields the names of crime victims. But in a redacted recording of a call, the victim’s son made to deputies from his own home, he said his father’s attackers are angry because they think he is responsible for a man who had gone missing Monday.

The report says Alexander tried to convince the man to go with them, but he refused, saying he was scared of retaliation. The man told deputies Alexander then threatened to get a gun from his car. When he still refused to go with them, the victim said Clement grabbed him and Alexander began punching him in the face.

The two fled when they heard sirens approaching but were arrested a short time later.

Deputies said the victim suffered a cut lip and forehead.

“He was all smiles. His feet were all bloody, no shirt, no shoes,” KC Leitner told WINK News. “One of the officers said, ‘Is your wife going to be mad,’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’”

That’s how Leitner, a search party member, described Alexandre after the Immokalee man spent almost three days outdoors in Okeechobee. Leitner added Alexandre is in great shape for a man of 65 years old.

“Between all the lightning and thunderstorms the past two nights and just the mosquitoes alone, I mean, it’s not easy trying to stay outside like that for three days,” Leitner said.

In Alexandre’s Immokalee neighborhood, everyone was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

“I am so happy,” neighbor Gabriel Casseus told WINK News. “He’s a good neighbor.”

Casseus has known Alexandre for 20 years.

“Every single morning we get up, he sees me, or I see him,” Casseus said. “We say good morning. We joke a little bit, you know?”

Neighbor Berta Ramirz shared the sentiment when she spoke to WINK News. She was very happy to know Alexandre turned up safe.

“I see the news; I cry because that’s my neighbor,” Ramirz said. “He’s a good neighbor.”

In 2016, ESPN made a documentary about Alexander and his family, “Gift from the Groves,” about his life growing up in Immokalee. His parents worked as pickers in the orange, squash and pepper fields for $300 a week combined. When Alexander and his twin bother, Mackenro, turned 10, they also began picking oranges on weekends.

Alexander starred at Immokalee High School, then headed to Clemson, where he starred for two seasons. Selected in the second round of the 2016 draft by the Vikings, Alexander had an up-and-down four seasons with Minnesota, primarily as the No. 3 cornerback, or the nickel position.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not hold back criticism of Alexander in his early years, but during training camp last season, Zimmer said Alexander had “turned the corner as far as coaching and believing in the system” as well as anyone on the team. Alexander had two interceptions over 55 regular season games with the Vikings.

He signed with the Bengals as a free agent during this past offseason.

“We are aware of the situation. We have no further comment at this time,” the Bengals said in a statement Wednesday.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.