Couple charged with kidnapping Oklahoma boy

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (AP) _ An Upper Darby couple was arrested on charges of kidnapping an eight-year-old Oklahoma boy three weeks after his mother sent him to what she thought was a ``boot camp'' for troubled youths.

The boy was found Wednesday, three weeks into his ordeal, in a Stonehurst rowhome in suburban Philadelphia, in unsanitary conditions, his legs covered with insect bites, but otherwise unhurt, police said.

Royal Mandel Harris, 23, also known as ``Col. Harris,'' and his mother, Elizabeth Daniel Harris, 53, also known as ``Lt. Col. Harris'' were arrested for kidnapping, endangering the welfare of children, and other charges.

The two were jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail pending an Oct. 27 preliminary hearing in district court.

Police said the boy's mother put him on a plane in Oklahoma on Sept. 15 for transport to the alleged ``Marine Corps Mad Dog Boot Camp'' to cure his ``attitude problem,'' the Delaware County Daily Times reported Friday.

The names and hometown of the women and her son were not used because of the boy's name, the paper said.

``She thought she was sending him to a military school,'' Upper Darby Detective Lt. Glenn Gamber said. ``She researched and got information from an agency ... listing military boot camps for kids.''

The woman paid $350 for a 10-day session and made two more $350 payments for more time.

For the first three days, the woman spoke on the phone to her son and the Harrises, but then the phone was disconnected and other contact arrangements provided. The Harrises also asked the woman to sign custody and guardianship papers, but she did not do so.

Three weeks into the youth's stay, one of the Harrises told the woman her son would not be returning until Thanksgiving or Christmas, after which she called the FBI as well as Tulsa and Upper Darby Township police.

Upper Darby police went to search the Harris home at 4 p.m. Wednesday and found the child, who initially identified himself as ``Matthew Harris.''

``The boy appeared to be confused and while leading him away Elizabeth Harris attempted to grab the boy and yelled, 'That's my son, Matthew. You're not taking him,''' Detective Glenn Monkman said in an affidavit.

When police talked to him and told him he was in safe hands, he gave his real name, Monkman said. The Harrises told police they had adopted the boy and showed Gamber false adoption papers, police said.

The youth was taken to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and treated for flea and other insect bites on his legs. Gamber said there was no indication of any kind of abuse, other than having stayed in filthy conditions that included dog droppings on the floor. He was also not allowed to take prescribed medications for a heart ailment, police said.

Police also found no evidence of an ``attitude problem,'' either.

``I found him to be well behaved and polite,'' Gamber said. ``He's a charming little guy, perfectly sociable.''

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