CHILLICOTHE, Mo. (AP) – A woman accused of abducting her baby grandson from Florida in 2000 evaded detection by moving the boy around Missouri for more than a decade until a school official became suspicious when she enrolled him for classes, authorities said.
Sandy Hatte, 60, is being held in Daviess-Dekalb Regional Jail in Pattonsburg on a charge of felony child abduction. She appeared in court Wednesday morning in Chillicothe, shackled at the waist and ankles. A judge set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 23.
Hatte’s public defender, Melinda Troeger, declined to comment after the hearing.
Investigators in northwest Missouri’s Livingston County said the grandmother abducted the boy in 2000, but declined to comment on a possible motive.
Authorities took custody of Hatte’s grandson, now a teenager, after Hatte was arrested last week. The boy has since been reunited with his father in Alabama.
Livingston County sheriff’s detective Eric Menconi would not release the names of the boy and his father. Menconi said he speaks with the father daily and that the man is “ecstatic.”
“It’s been pretty overwhelming for the whole family,” Menconi told The Associated Press. “But they’re taking it one day at a time now. It’s been tough for the dad.
“He’s just like any other parent. He works for a living and has other family he has to take care of, and he’s been running into a lot of roadblocks trying to find his son. It was one of those things where he was using as many resources as possible to track his son, but hit a dead end until Sept. 5.”
That’s when the sheriff’s department started investigating the case after a school official in Livingston County notified authorities that “something was unusual about the custody of a juvenile recently enrolled in that school,” according to a probable cause statement.
Menconi said Hatte and her grandson had been in about seven different Missouri towns since 2002. Investigators have been trying to determine why the boy’s name was not on any missing child registries.
“There was never an Amber Alert. Nothing was filed with the FBI or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Menconi told the AP.
The probable cause statement said the father told Menconi he had known “from day one” that his mother had fled Florida with his son in December 2000. The father said he reported his son missing or abducted in Florida “on or about February 2001” and provided authorities in Missouri with documentation showing he’s the boy’s biological father, the statement said.
The probable cause statement does not specify where in Florida, and Menconi declined to elaborate.
Menconi spoke with the boy’s biological mother, who is not married to the father, and she told the detective she doesn’t have custody and wasn’t aware of any court orders giving the grandmother custody, according to the statement.
The family hired Kansas City-area private investigator Larry Jones, who located Hatte in northern Missouri’s Putnam County in February. But after law enforcement officers contacted Hatte, she fled to Iowa, according to the probable cause statement.
She left Iowa this summer for Livingston County, Mo., where, according to the statement, she told school officials she was the boy’s mother.
Jones attributed the break in the case to the school official.
The investigator said he wasn’t too surprised the grandmother and boy managed to stay on their own for so long.
“I think people turn a blind eye,” Jones said. “I think it’s just because they don’t want to get involved.”
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