ANONYMOUS CALL

3 children abducted in ’99 found in Toledo; mom who allegedly took kids
not found

By CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
June 9, 2006

An anonymous tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children led Toledo police yesterday to recover three children who were
abducted nearly seven years ago by their mother, authorities said.

A federal arrest warrant was issued Nov. 16, 1999, for Lalita Martre, who
is now believed to be in her 30s, after she duped foster parents who had
custody of her three children into believing she was a Lucas County
Children Services employee who had come to take the children for an
evaluation.

Authorities had no information about their whereabouts until receiving
the tip yesterday. The abduction led to changes in Children Services
procedures for employee identification and communications with foster
parents.

Derrick Martre, 15; Khadijah Martre, 13, and Zaimah Martre, 10, were
found about 1:30 a.m. yesterday with an aunt at 1657 Spencer St. in South
Toledo. Police said the youths were in good health and taken to Children
Services.

Police still had no information late yesterday about the whereabouts of
their mother, who may use the aliases Lalita Muhammad, Anquenette King,
Sandy Owens, or Kutana Kirkland.

“Our initial assessment is [the children] are in good health. They have
been pretty well cared for. Their hygiene appears to be appropriate,”
said Rod Brandt, Children Services spokesman. “We’re not sure of the
medical care they’ve received. We believe they’ve not been in school for
several years.”

Mr. Brandt said the children are “very polite, well-spoken, and
respectful to our staff.” They have been placed in foster care while
caseworkers try to piece together nearly seven years of their lives and
assess their needs.

“[Finding the children] was a shock. It certainly took us by surprise,
but it was a very pleasant surprise,” he said.

Mr. Brandt said he does not know where the children have been throughout
the years. They were reportedly in Florida shortly after they were
abducted, but that turned out to be a dead end.

Authorities believe the children recently returned to Toledo. Children
Services’ last contact with the family was in 1999. The agency did not
think it would find the children and asked Lucas County Juvenile Court to
terminate its custody – which it did – and closed the case in 2001, Mr.
Brandt said.

Larry Upchurch, director of operations for the missing children’s
division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said
the tip on the location of the children came through the group’s 24-hour
hotline between Wednesday night and when they were recovered. The center
notified police after receiving the tip.

Mr. Upchurch said it’s not unusual for children to be found after such a
long period of time, especially if they were taken in a family abduction.
Often the children are cared for and the family unit is kept together, he
said.

“That’s why we always keep looking,” he said.

Mr. Upchurch said one out of every six recoveries is a result of someone
seeing the missing child on a poster. He is not sure if that was the case
for the Martre children.

Nearly seven years ago, the children’s foster parents were misled into
releasing them from a foster home on Warren Street with a fake message
written on a psychiatrist’s letterhead to release them for an evaluation.
The day before, someone arrived at the foster home and left the fake
letter with a young adult living at the residence.

The letter said to have the children ready to be picked up the next
morning by a Children Services employee who would take them for an
evaluation. The next day, the foster mother, believing an agency employee
had come for the children, turned them over to a woman later identified
as their mother.

The children had been in temporary custody with Children Services for
more than a month because of an investigation into neglect. The agency
said the investigation stemmed from the prior arrest of the mother and
her husband, who were held in jail and unable to care for the children.
They were later released.

Police said the neglect stemmed from poor living conditions at the house,
including one child having to sleep in a closet.

© 2006 The Blade.

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