CHILLICOTHE, Mo. - A woman accused of abducting her grandson from Florida when he was a baby has moved the boy around several Missouri towns for more than a decade, managing to evade detection until a school official became suspicious when she enrolled the boy for classes, authorities said.
Sandy Hatte, 60, is to appear in court Wednesday in Chillicothe. She's jailed on a charge of felony child abduction. A date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set during the court appearance.
Investigators in northwest Missouri's Livingston County said Hatte abducted the boy in 2000. They said they could not comment on a possible motive in the case. Online records don't list a lawyer for Hatte, who is being held on $25,000 bond.
Authorities took custody of the grandson, now a teenager, last week after arresting Hatte. The boy has since been reunited with his father and has returned to live with him in Alabama.
Livingston County sheriff's detective Eric Menconi would not release the names of the boy and 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 on Tuesday. "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 the date when the sheriff's department started investigating the case, according to a probable cause statement. A school official in Livingston County notified authorities that "something was unusual about the custody of a juvenile recently enrolled in that school," the statement said.
Menconi said Hatte and her grandson had been in about seven different Missouri towns since 2002. The detective said 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. However, he said, the father told him he knew "from day one" that his mother had taken his son.
According to the probable cause statement, the father told Menconi that his mother took the boy and fled Florida in December 2000. The father told the detective that 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 there, she fled to Iowa, according to the probable cause statement.
She then fled Iowa this summer for Livingston County where, according to the statement, she told school officials she was the boy's mother while trying to enroll him in classes.
Jones attributed the break in the case to the alert 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."