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, Baltimore police homicide Detective Errol E. Etting said.
The group had driven from Baltimore to North Carolina. Detective Etting said it was not clear whether others in the group besides the 14-year-old "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 Wednesday after the 14-year-old allegedly tricked teachers at their school intoletting them leave with him.
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. about 9 a.m. by the brother of Mike Clark, Ms. Patterson's boyfriend. They identified the boy as Emmanuel Clark of the 200 block of Conkling Street in East Baltimore.
The police said they do not know why the children might have been taken. But their aunt said that Emmanuel had been living with Ms. Patterson and her family for about a week after being kicked out of his mother's house and that last Saturday Ms. Patterson asked him to leave.
"It was revenge," said Donna Patterson, the aunt. "That was what he said, revenge."
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 he wanted to visit with the kids," Mr. Amprey said.
He said that the person took the children to the hall, as if to talk to them outside the class, and then left with them.
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," Ms. Poe said. Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman, said that investigators interviewed the children's father, Thomas Smith of East Baltimore, to determine whether he had taken the children but were apparently convinced that he was at work in Montgomery County at the time.
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., her boyfriend went to the school to pick up 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 took Keisha out.
Mr. Hill said the police developed leads that the children and the 14-year-old may have been traveling with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Toni Tennyson of Essex. Investigators found she had ties in Shrewsbury, Pa., and contacted authorities there. They were told that she and the others might have gone to Beaufort.
Emmanuel and his girlfriend were arrested by authorities in Beaufort at 9:30 p.m., Mr. Hill said.
"The children are in great condition," Mr. Hill said. "They've been turned over to the North Carolina Department of Social Services. We expect to get them back [today or tomorrow]."
Family members were relieved.
"They said that they're fine, but we want to see them for ourselves," said Donna Patterson.
But the children's grandmother had harsh words for their alleged abductors.
"The boy has got to be sick to do something like that. He needs help," said an angry Elizabeth Patterson. "If I catch him on the street, I'm going to get him!"
For homicide detectives working the case, it was a seldom-seen happy ending.
"We're just happy," Detective Etting said. "Working in homicide you don't get good news too often.