NEW: Houston police are looking at why an Amber Alert was never issued in 2004 case
Krystle Tanner of San Augustine, Texas, is in custody in the alleged kidnapping
She was the boy's godmother, the mother tells CNN
The boy, now 8, was 8 months old when he and Tanner went missing in 2004, mom says
A Texas woman has been arrested as a suspect in an alleged kidnapping of a boy eight years ago, the San Augustine County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
The woman, Krystle Tanner of San Augustine, was the godmother of Miguel Antonio Morin, who was 8 months old when he and Tanner went missing, the boy’s mother, Auboni Champion-Morin, told CNN Wednesday. Tanner, also a neighbor, had been babysitting the boy in her Houston home, she said.
San Augustine is about 165 miles northeast of Houston.
The boy, now 8, was in good physical condition Monday and was in the custody of Texas Child Protective Services, said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham.
The mother filed a police report in 2004, but Houston police closed the case two years later after prosecutors asked for clarification of the date the boy disappeared and Houston police were “unable to clarify that information,” Cunningham said.
Tanner was arrested Monday in connection with the boy’s kidnapping after Child Protective Services began investigating her in August on allegations of negligently supervising her children and an unknown 8-year-old child who had been physically abused, Cunningham said.
In an interview Wednesday, Champion-Morin expressed joy and disbelief that Miguel, the youngest of her five children at the time of his disappearance, had been finally found.
Authorities did not give details about who was taking care of the boy when he was found.
When Champion-Morin received a phone call Monday from the child welfare agency, “I kind of had to look at the phone – was this real?” said the mother, who had a sixth child after her son’s disappearance.
She wondered if authorities’ call was a cruel joke, she said.
She was asked about the disappearance of her son and his connection to Tanner, she said.
“At first, it kind of scared me,” she said.
She was thinking about her son in recent days because his birthday was March 1.
The child protection agency told Champion-Morin that Tanner had been arrested in east Texas, but that her son was not with Tanner at the time, the mother said.
Champion-Morin will undergo a blood test possibly this week to prove she is the biological mother, she said.
On the night that her son and Tanner disappeared, Champion-Morin said she had asked Tanner to watch her son overnight. At the time, the mother had five children, all under age 4, and Miguel was the youngest.
“I was having hardship at the time,” the mother said. “I asked her to watch him overnight, and when I came back … they were gone.”
Tanner and the mother lived in the same apartment building, and Tanner wanted the boy to stay in her apartment and the other kids to stay at another friend’s apartment, the mother said.
Tanner was a high school student at the time and had to attend classes the next morning, but when Champion-Morin went to pick up her son that morning, he and Tanner were gone, Champion-Morin said.
Tanner’s mother said the two had left the state, Champion-Morin said.
She called police, she said.
The mother knew Tanner and her family well, and they spent a lot of time together, she said.
“At that time, I trusted her, I knew her,” Champion-Morin said.
Police asked her to take a polygraph and she agreed, but because she was pregnant at the time police told her she could not take it then, Champion-Morin said.
She never knew police had closed the case back in 2006, and she assumed all along they were still working on it, she said.
She called Houston Police several times to check on the case over the years and was always told she had a new police contact and the case had been assigned to someone else, the mother said.
She found the experience frustrating and had not called back in a while, she said.
Still, she thought often of her son, she said.
“I always wondered every night. I dreamed and prayed on it,” she said.
She explained Miguel’s disappearance to his siblings “the best I could,” she said.
“They still somewhat don’t understand the situation, why (someone) would do that,” Champion-Morin said.
Her children now “are trying to make sure I stay calm” and are “praying with me,” the mom said.
Miguel could be returned to her “by the end of the week,” she said.
“I’m going to let him know I love him with all my heart … and any questions he has, I will answer them,” Champion-Morin said. “It will be hard.”
“We will probably have to go to a psychiatrist together,” she said, adding it will also be opportunity to work out their relationship and get to know one another.
When asked how she felt about how Houston police handled the case, she said, “It took years to get some sort of progress. This took years … a lot of running around and nobody helping me.”
The boy was reported missing in November 2004, and after an investigation, Houston police presented the case to the Harris County district attorney’s office for review in February 2005, Cunningham said.
The prosecutor accepted the case, but a warrant was never issued because the prosecutor’s office apparently asked for clarification of the precise date when the boy was taken, Cunningham said.
Houston police was unable to clarify that information, and the case was closed in 2006, Cunningham said.
An Amber Alert was never issued for the boy because the Houston Regional Amber Alert Plan was never notified, said coordinator Beth Alberts.
Houston Police Department investigators are now looking into the case, including why an Amber Alert was never requested, spokesman Kese Smith said Wednesday.
In August 2011, the state child welfare agency received a report against Tanner about alleged negligence of her children, Cunningham said. An 8-year-old boy was reportedly “hit on,” Cunningham said.
The report didn’t suggest the alleged negligence was egregious, but the child welfare authority initiated an investigation and attempted to identify the 8-year-old child in the report, Cunningham said.
Tanner allegedly gave the child welfare agency’s investigators contradictory information about the 8-year-old boy, saying the child was hers and then wasn’t hers, that the child belonged to her brother or someone else, Cunningham said.
The state agency then called the sheriff’s office, which eventually opened a criminal investigation in January after authorities couldn’t find the child, Cunningham said.
Tanner again allegedly provided misleading information to the sheriff’s investigators, Cunningham said.
The child welfare agency then provided sheriff’s investigators with a possible identity of the missing child, and San Augustine County prosecutors secured a warrant for Tanner, Cunningham said.
“We interviewed her again (Wednesday) and she provided additional information,” Cunningham said. “She admitted that she provided misleading information, which certainly supports our belief that she kidnapped the child.”