Two young children reported kidnapped from a Southeast Baltimore elementary school were found unharmed last night in Beaufort, N.C., along with a 14-year-old boy believed to have taken them.
"Investigative leads" pursued by city police and the FBI ended in North Carolina, where the three children were picked up along with three other people, said Baltimore police homicide Detective Errol E. Etting.
The group had driven from Baltimore to North Carolina, but Detective Etting said it was not clear whether others in the group "were aware these children were taken against their will." The others taken into custody by Beaufort police included the suspect's 18-year-old girlfriend, he said.
Police said the younger children were reported kidnapped earlier Wednesday after the 14-year-old allegedly tricked teachers at their school into letting him talk to them.
Keisha Lynn Smith, 5, and her brother, James Allen Smith, 7, were reported missing at 6.30 p.m. Wednesday by their mother, Brenda Patterson, 28, of the 1100 block of Rayleigh Way in O'Donnell Heights.
Investigators said they believe the children were taken from the Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary School at 6300 O'Donnell St. at about 9 a.m. by the brother of Ms. Patterson's boyfriend. They identified the boy as Emmanuel Clark, of the 200 block of Conkling Street in East Baltimore. They said they do not know why the children might have been taken.
Walter G. Amprey, the city superintendent of schools, said last night that the person who took the children was known to both school officials and the youngsters and was therefore given a visitor's pass when he asked to see the children.
"He went to the classroom and tricked the teachers, saying hewanted to visit with the kids," said Mr. Amprey said. He ent said that the person took the children to the hall, as if to talk to them outside the class, and then left with them.
Mr. Amprey suggested that the removal of the youngsters might part of a custody battle between the children's parents, but a police detective working on the case said, "We're not finding that at this point."
Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman, said that investigators interviewed the father to determine whether he had taken the children but that they are apparently convinced that he was at work in Montgomery County at the time.
Police declined to identify the father. He lives with Ms. Patterson and the children.
Ms. Patterson told the police that she dropped her children off at the school at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. At 11:30 a.m., Ms. Patterson's boyfriend came to the school to pick up 5-year-old Keisha but was told by staff members that someone had picked her up at 9 a.m.
Ms. Patterson and her boyfriend then began looking for Keisha -- apparently hoping she was with someone in the neighborhood. Then, when 7-year-old James didn't come home, they continued searching for a while before calling the police, according to Mr. Hill.
School officials told the police that someone wearing a red plaid shirt and a dark cap had come to the school to visit the youngsters.
Investigators' attention turned to Emmanuel when they learned he spent a lot of time playing with the children. The police took Emmanuel's photograph to the school, where office workers told them it was possible he had been the person who signed Keisha out.
Karen V. Poe, a spokeswoman for the city schools, said that the Clark youth has a close relationship with the children and that they considered him a family member. The office staff told school district officials that the children showed no fear when they were taken out of school.
"Therefore, no flags were raised with the staff at school," she said.
"We are looking into what happened at Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights and why," said Ms. Poe.