Two Missing Children Found Safe and Sound

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Two children who were inside their mother's car when it was stolen from a Tulsa gas station were found near Afton just before sunrise Wednesday in the abandoned vehicle.

A sheriff's deputy and police officer found 61/2-month-old Demetri Collette and 19-month-old Monique Collette unharmed and awake inside the car after the all-night ordeal, said Ottawa County Sheriff Dennis King.

"They weren't crying," he said. "They were just kind of looking around."

The children were taken to Integris Baptist Regional Health Center in Miami before being reunited with their mother and grandmother. Spokesman Dave Simpson said the youngest child was slightly dehydrated but was fine after a breakfast of three bottles.

"The kids didn't seem too shook up at all," Simpson said.

A citizen who was aware that Tulsa authorities were searching for a stolen neon pink Geo Tracker spotted it on a dirt road about three miles east of Afton and called police just before 6 a.m., officials said.

Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer linked the tots' safe return to Tulsa's first activation of the Amber Alert, an effort to locate endangered children through quick notification of area news media.

The alert sparked a massive search for the children.

"I'm guessing the heat from the media and our efforts to try to recover that car led them to abandon it," he said.

King said the person who found the car was aware of the media alert.

The children's mother, Brandy Renae Collette, 21, left the keys inside the parked car Tuesday when she went into a gas station to get a drink.

She told police she was inside for less than 11/2 minutes between 5:41 p.m. and 5:43 p.m. when someone drove off in the car with the children inside.

Police questioned Collette and her husband, David Collette, to determine if a domestic dispute was involved in the case. The mother took and passed a lie detector test, Palmer said. More interviews were planned.

Police had no suspects and also planned to examine the abandoned car for clues.

Dozens of extra police officers and reserves aided in a grid-by-grid search of the city for the car overnight.

Corene Sweet, the children's grandmother, cried and pleaded as the search went on.

"I don't care about that car. Just let my grandbabies go," she told reporters. "Leave 'em at a store or on the side of the road.

Just, please."

The Amber Alert is named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Arlington, Texas, girl who was abducted and killed in 1996.

Once police have received a report of a child abduction, they fax information to area media outlets. Broadcast stations then sound an emergency tone during their broadcasts -- similar to a weather alert -- which is followed by the information from law enforcement agencies.

The information normally includes a description of the child, and, if authorities have it, a description of the abductor's vehicle so that motorists can be on the lookout.

"If we did not have the Amber Plan, that's just another car abandoned by the side of the road with no one looking for it,"

Palmer said.

He said a test of the Amber Alert had been planned for this Friday. The real-life trial revealed some glitches that need to be corrected, he said. For example, a telephone being used to take reports was briefly turned off as numerous telephone calls came in.

Stay tuned to The News on Six for the latest on this story tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00.