Child safely recovered after being kidnapped by mother

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 5:44 PM CST
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The father of a three-year-old lied about a stranger abducting his daughter from his front yard.

She was instead taken by her biological mother and the mother's boyfriend.

Both were in custody Tuesday and the child safely back home.

The Department of Law Enforcement issued an Amber Alert just after 10 a.m. Monday for three-year-old Madeline Mejia.

Her father had reported her kidnapped by a stranger. ‘

Police had other ideas.

The non-custodial mother's cell phone had pinged about 40 miles east of Tallahassee, so troopers in a three county area were on high alert.

State Trooper Jessie Sunday was traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 when he saw the car pass.

He turned around in pursuit.

“We followed it to about [mile marker] 209 until we got some troopers behind me, and a couple FDLE agents and we performed a felony stop on the vehicle at the 208 mile marker,” said Sunday. “Guns, drawn, yes sir. You know, backup around. Surround the vehicle in a semi-circle. Call each person out one at at time. Driver, passenger.”

The 18-year-old biological mother, Tania Duarte, and her 19-year-old companion appeared in a Tallahassee courtroom Tuesday.

Both spoke through an interpreter and got the same message from the judge.

“You will be held without bond pending your return to Orange County,” said Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens.

Two others in the car were questioned and turned over to immigration authorities.

Trooper Sunday said motorists along I-10 cooperated as the interstate was briefly closed.

He said the child was happy to have been rescued.

“A little scared, but once we got her away from the situation, she seemed to be relieved as well,” said Sunday.

The child was reunited with her father Monday night.

He has yet to be charged with a crime, but Apopka Police say the investigation remains open.

While originally classified as a stranger abduction, that is seldom the case.

Fewer than one percent of all missing children are taken by a stranger or non-custodial family member.

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