How Change of Custody May Have Played Key Role in Capture
It's probably not going too far out on a limb to call this yesterday's no-brainer decision of the day. The winner? Mary Watson, the grandmother of 4-year-old Haylee Donathan, the girl who up 'til Tuesday had been missing 27 days in a highly publicized Ohio case. Haylee was finally found Tuesday in California after being taken across the country by her mom with her sex offender boyfriend Robbie Potter (who, by the way, happened to be a fugitive). Grandma Watson announced yesterday that she won't be letting Haylee go back to her mom, Candace Watson, and will do whatever social services says. Phew! At any rate, CNN's article did point out an interesting aspect of Haylee's case, specifically, that in order to issue an Amber Alert, police had to have grandma Watson obtain temporary court-ordered custody of Haylee.
Why would that even be necessary, you ask? Well, Ohio's law on Amber Alerts requires that a child be "abducted" in order to issue an Amber Alert. Although parental abductions can and do happen, a parent with custody of their child (i.e. without shared custody, or involved in a custody dispute) can't really abduct their own kid. So authorities pulled a slick move and had a court give temporary custody to Haylee's grandma. Presumably, this allowed the child to be reported and classified as abducted, despite authorities' apparent knowledge that she was with her mom.
The following are Ohio's requirements for implementing the "statewide emergency alert program":
(1) The local investigating law enforcement agency confirms that an abduction has occurred.
(2) An abducted child is under eighteen years of age.
(3) The abduction poses a credible threat of immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death to a child.
(4) A law enforcement agency determines that the child is not a runaway and has not been abducted as a result of a child custody dispute, unless the dispute poses a credible threat of immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death to the child.
(5) There is sufficient descriptive information about the child, the abductor, and the circumstances surrounding the abduction to indicate that activation of the alert will help locate the child.
Noteably, at this point in time, Haylee's mom appears to be facing state charges involving harboring a fugitive, as opposed to offenses involving kidnapping or abduction. Potter, on the other hand, could very well be taking a nice long trip back to prison on a slew of violations ranging from parole issues to sex offender reporting and registration law offenses.
- CNN: Grandmother says rescued girl won't return to mother
- CNN: Ohio girl, 4, found with mom, sex offender
- Ohio Law re Statewide emergency alert program (Ohio.gov)
- Ohio's Amber Plan FAQ (www.ohioamberplan.org)
- Child Custody Information Center (provided by Wolfe & Stec, Ltd.)
- Ohio Grandparents' Rights (provided by Crossman & Mesaros, LLC)
- Sex Offenders and Sex Offenses (FindLaw)