It is a homecoming more than a decade in the making.
A child, kidnapped in Florida in 2000, reunites with the father who never gave up searching for his son. "I think this is any parent's nightmare," said Det. Eric Menconi of the Livingston County Sheriff's Office in Missouri. "To have this ending, it's a good thing, no doubt about it."
But this is no stranger abduction, according to authorities. The alleged kidnapper is the child's grandmother, Sandy Hatte, 60, who allegedly took the toddler when her own son asked her to babysit while he went to work.
CNN is not identifying the child or the father, as per CNN policy and the wishes of the police, in order to spare the child from any unwanted attention.
When the father returned home, both were gone. It took 13 years to track them down. And it wasn't until last week that this family saga came to a dramatic -- and surprising -- conclusion.
Hatte was apparently homeless and living with her grandson in Chillicothe, Missouri, said Menconi. She tried to register the teen in school, but officials grew suspicious and alerted authorities, Menconi said. Around the same time, a private investigator hired by the boy's father was able to locate the two in Missouri. But before either the police or the investigator could approach Hatte, she moved with her grandson to Iowa, authorities said.
That was in July. By the fall, Hatte and the teen were back in Missouri, where a state law played a pivotal role in bringing the father and son back together. According to the law, if a child is taken into the state without the legal consent of a parent or guardian for more than 30 days, it's considered child abduction, said Menconi, who used that statute to reunite the two.
Menconi said he notified the father that the police were going to get his son back. The father then drove from Alabama to Missouri. A 19-hour road trip. A 13-year wait. And on September 17, reunited with the child he last saw at age 1.
The now-14-year-old boy "is adjusting quite well," Menconi said, relating a recent call to the father in which the father's wife said, "I hate to bother him right now, they are playing in the tree house."
Hatte is being held in the Daviess Dekalb County Regional Jail in lieu of $25,000 cash bond, Menconi said. She is charged with Felony Child Abduction. She was arraigned on September 20 and her next court appearance is this Wednesday.
Menconi said he did know of a possible motive behind the alleged kidnapping.
As for the father and son reunion, Menconi could not have imagined a better outcome. "I don't think words can really explain it."
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