Grandmother Won't Face Charges In Illinois Abduction

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 3:43 pm
By: News On 6

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ No criminal charges will be filed against a former Peoria woman accused of illegally leaving Illinois with her 6-year-old grandson and hiding out for two years in Tulsa, authorities said.

Doris Garretson, 68, was arrested Tuesday after a tip sparked by a missing person flier led police to a small apartment where she was living with young Jonathan Smalley, who is being returned to Illinois and will be placed in foster care.

Garretson was released from the Tulsa County Jail on Thursday after Illinois officials said they would not extradite her on a warrant of failing to return the child to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

``The only involvement we have is with the child, coordinating his return with DCFS ... This appears to be more of a child custody case,'' said Peoria County sheriff's Capt. David Briggs.

The Peoria County state's attorney's office was closed Friday and prosecutors could not be reached for comment.

Garretson had legal custody of her grandson when the Peoria boy _ then age 3 _ disappeared two years ago, authorities said. When Garretson later missed a court appearance relating to custody, a judge awarded temporary custody to DCFS and a warrant was issued for Garretson's arrest.

Police said Jonathan was living with his grandmother in Tulsa when a neighbor recognized their faces on a flier distributed by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and notified authorities this week.

Tulsa police Sgt. John Adams said the boy appeared to be in good health when officers found him.

``There was food in the home. Conditions were livable ... ,'' Adams said.

Garretson told the Tulsa World that she is saving money to travel to Peoria for a court hearing regarding her grandson's custody next Thursday, and hopes to regain custody or be granted visitation rights.

``He has special needs, and I understand his wants and needs,'' Garretson said of her grandson, who she says was born with developmental disabilities.

``I'm not going to buck the system again,'' she said. ``You never win. The system catches up with you.''

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe declined comment Friday.

Garretson said she has taken care of the boy since birth and that his mother had given her temporary guardianship of the boy. She said she left Peoria in 2004 without permission from DCFS to move to Tennessee, so the boy could be closer to his mother.

When a warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to show up for the March 2005 custody hearing in Illinois, Garretson said she panicked and fled to Tulsa.

``I was trying to get set up with social services (in Tennessee) and asked if the hearing could be postponed because I was short on money,'' she said. ``Being fearful, I left and came to Tulsa.''

Marlowe said DCFS had been searching for Jonathan since he disappeared, working with the Alexandria, Va.-based Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Garretson said she is remorseful about what happened and hopes to see Jonathan, who she calls Joey, soon.

``I would tell him that 'I'm sorry and Grandma loves you,''' she said. ``I'm sorry I caused us to be apart, and we'll be together soon.''