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Vulture Trumps Stork

March 1, 2008 permalink

When Arizona father Brett Wolfe had his son Michael kidnapped by his nanny, police recovered the toddler within a day with an Amber alert. But then child protectors kidnapped the boy again. This time dad will not get the boy back so soon, if ever.



CPS takes child found through Amber Alert

Dad was neglectful, didn't check nanny's background, officials say

Brett Wolfe with son Michael
Brett Wolfe is reunited with son Michael at the Surprise public-safety building Thursday. Police say the boy was taken by his nanny and another woman

Lily Leung, The Arizona Republic, Mar. 1, 2008 12:00 AM

The reunion was short-lived between a Surprise father and his 18-month old son who was the focus of a statewide Amber Alert on Thursday.

The toddler, Michael Wolfe, who went missing with a 15-year-old live-in nanny Wednesday and was later found at an Avondale apartment complex, was taken away from Brett Wolfe Thursday evening and turned over to state Child Protective Services after Surprise police concluded that the father's actions were neglectful.

The baby-sitter who disappeared with Michael, identified by police as a Gilbert runaway, has been arrested on suspicion of custodial interference, said Sgt. Mark Ortega, spokesman for the Surprise Police Department.

Wolfe reportedly found the nanny by placing a Craigslist advertisement online. He told police he was led to believe the teen was 19, not 15.

Also arrested was Judith Martha Lucatero, 20, who met the nanny previously at a dog park and whom police identified as the person who picked up the nanny and Michael on Wednesday when they disappeared. Lucatero was booked at the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix on custodial-interference charges.

According to police, CPS took Michael from his father late Thursday afternoon after Brett Wolfe spoke to media at Surprise police headquarters.

At that point, Wolfe implied he was taking the toddler home. But Ortega said the father had already been informed that CPS was going to take Michael until a full investigation was complete.

"CPS took the boy in the afternoon after we reunited the father and the child," Ortega said. "We did tell him that we'd let him hold him and see the child one more time. We never said that we were going to release the child with him."

Surprise police contacted the agency after the boy was found regarding the circumstances leading up to this week's Amber Alert for the child.

"CPS came down, talked to us and concurred with us that his actions were neglectful," Ortega said.

Piecing together Wednesday's events, Ortega said the nanny told Lucatero she needed help taking the child from his home because she believed he was being abused, an assertion police say is untrue.

The nanny asked Lucatero to drop them off at an Avondale apartment complex where the teen had acquaintances. That is where police found them. Police will not charge the apartment's residents, Ortega said.

Source: Arizona Republic

Rich Parsons

Addendum: Arizona CPS has had a change of heart.



Toddler abducted last week is returned to father

Lily Leung, The Arizona Republic, Mar. 4, 2008 07:39 AM

A 1½-year-old Surprise boy who was the focus of an Amber Alert last week has been reunited with his father after a brief stay with state Child Protective Services, police said.

The toddler, Michael Wolfe, was reunited with his father, Brett Wolfe, at 4 p.m. Monday after what Surprise Police Sgt. Mark Ortega called "a rather interesting exchange."

The boy disappeared from his father's Surprise home last Wednesday, and was located late the next afternoon at an Avondale apartment where his 15-year-old live-in nanny had allegedly taken him with the help of an associate. The nanny, described as a Gilbert runaway, and her associate, Judith Martha Lucatero, 20, were arrested on custodial interference charges.

Hours after Michael Wolfe was found, he was turned over to CPS while investigation of the case continued. Police suspected child neglect in the case, questioning how his father retained the runaway nanny via a Web site.

On Friday evening, Surprise police also spoke via phone to the child's biological mother, Relaiza Galope Labadan. The Philippines resident initially reported to police that Wolfe did not have permission to bring their child to the U.S. from her country, Ortega said.

However, she recanted her statements over the weekend, giving CPS the green light to return the child to his father, Ortega said.

"She completely changed her story when she was on the conference call today," Ortega said late Monday afternoon. "I don't know what happened over the weekend, but she changed her story."

Last week, the Labadan, 22, also told police Wolfe had promised to bring her to the U.S. along with their child, Ortega said. She claimed she returned home and found the child, his possessions and Wolfe gone. Within 24 hours, she told investigators, she received a call from Wolfe saying he was with the child in the U.S., Ortega said.

"After that, she changed her story," he said.

Police said that although the child has been returned to his father, the investigation remains open. Detectives plan to look into tips phoned in during the Amber Alert, Ortega said.

Wolfe reportedly found the live-in nanny via a Craigslist online ad he posted. He told police the girl led him to believe she was 19, not 15.

Source: Arizona Republic