US infant kidnapped eight years ago found

ANGELA K BROWN
Last updated 13:27 15/03/2012

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A Texas infant who vanished eight years ago will be reunited with his mother after police arrested his former baby sitter who is accused of kidnapping him, authorities have revealed.

Krystle Rochelle Tanner, 26, is in custody in San Augustine, about 300km southeast of Fort Worth. She was arrested on a kidnapping charge on Tuesday (NZ time).

The boy's mother, Auboni Champion-Morin, told Houston television station KPRC that she may be reunited with her son later this week. Authorities said she must first undergo a DNA test, even though they're sure of his identity.

"I want to hold him in my arms and let him know who I am," said Champion-Morin, who lives in Houston. "I hope he can feel the same thing I feel for him."

Tanner, also the baby's godmother, was a suspect when the mother reported her 8-month-old son missing in late 2004. But Tanner's relatives in Houston told police that she and the infant had vanished. The case went cold and was closed in 2006, said Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham of the San Augustine Sheriff's Department.

Late last summer, child welfare investigators in San Augustine County - about 220km miles northeast of Houston - received a complaint that Tanner and her boyfriend were neglecting their two children, Cunningham said.

Officials tried to find the older boy. Tanner told authorities different stories about the child: he went by different names and she had been keeping him briefly for a woman that she had met in a park, Cunningham said.

Although sheriff's deputies had no records for the boy and little information to work with, they began investigating it as a missing child's case in January. Neither Child Protective Services nor law enforcement knew about the 2004 Houston kidnapping case at the time because the boy had been removed from the national missing children's database. Even so, they didn't know his name.

"It was very difficult because we were essentially searching for a ghost," Cunningham told The Associated Press.

CPS officials recently learned that Tanner was suspected in the 2004 kidnapping, which led to Tuesday's arrest. One of Tanner's relatives led them to the boy but denied knowing that he had been abducted, Cunningham said.

It's too soon to say whether anyone else will be arrested, Cunningham said.

He said the family will likely go through some counselling. The child apparently has never been in school, and one of the names Tanner called him was "Dirty," he said.

CPS officials in Houston did not return calls today and the AP's attempts to reach Champion-Morin were unsuccessful.

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Champion-Morin said that she had done everything to find her child.

"I prayed every night that he was safe, loved and he would come home one day," Champion-Morin said.

- AP

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