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3 children missing from Indy found safe; parents detained after Texas standoff

Parents arrested after missing Indy kids found in Texas

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The noncustodial parents of the three children who went missing from Indianapolis last week are now in custody in Texas, and the children have been found safe.

According to law enforcement in Texas, the parents, Willie Terrell, 50, and Jessika Officer, 31, surrendered peacefully after an hourslong standoff at a motel in Pearsall on Tuesday.

The two have been charged with three counts of interference with custody, removing children from the state in violation of court orders.

According to court documents, IMPD officers were dispatched to the Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, 3645 Vincennes Road, in Indianapolis around 1 p.m. July 4 for an abduction. That restaurant is located on the city’s northwest side.

A man met with officers and said that he had custody of his three grandchildren — identified as Frankie, 4; Queen, 3; and King, 1 — and had agreed to bring the children to meet their parents for a meal at the restaurant with the approval of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

When the man returned from the bathroom, after Willie and Jessika arrived, the pair had left in a white minivan with their three children.

When reviewing security camera footage from businesses near Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, they saw Willie and Jessika drive their white minivan into the lot between the restaurant and Gordon’s Food Services and then drive out of camera view. The two were then seen walking toward the restaurant.

At 12:25 p.m., Willie and Jessika were seen on camera running south from the restaurant toward their vehicle. Willie was carrying Queen in his left arm while Jessika ran with King and Frankie.

Detectives didn’t see the group leave the parking lot, and due to poor camera quality, court documents say they couldn’t get a plate, make, or model of the van.

“The parents decided to take the children, a noncustodial abduction, and flee in a vehicle,” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Tommy Thompson said.

IMPD detectives discovered the following day in their investigation that the children had been removed from their parents in October due to medical neglect, including failure to give their daily medications and fed them poorly.

A statewide Silver Alert was issued on July 5 for the pair and their three children.

“I think it is also important to note that the detectives learned that these children needed a medication every day, and they didn’t have that medication, and so that was the need to get that silver alert out as quickly as possible,” Thompson said.

On Monday, detectives obtained an accurate phone number and successfully pinged it at 4:16 a.m. in Columbus, Texas. A Child Services case manager informed detectives that she had just spoken with Willie and his therapist in a three-way call.

Willie reportedly told his therapist during the call “the children were okay, they were on their way to Mexico, stating he was 288 miles from Mexico, and he wanted the FBI to investigate why his children kept being taken from him,” court documents say.

Detectives obtained medical records of the three children, which showed they had been diagnosed with illnesses that need continued treatment. According to IMPD, the medication the children needed was not with them and was the cause for concern.

On Tuesday morning, with the help of Texas officials, a ping of Willie’s phone revealed that he was in Pearsall, Texas, 101 miles from the United States-Mexico border.

At 3 p.m., the Frio County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the FBI about the silver alert and conducted a traffic stop on a white van linked to the alert. The driver fled from law enforcement and barricaded themselves in a hotel room at Rio Frio Motel.

According to an official statement, Texas Department of Public Safety officers successfully negotiated with Willie and Jesska, who surrendered peacefully. Three children found inside the hotel room received a medical evaluation.

“So, what I can tell you and what I can confirm is that the Texas Department of Public Safety was handling a barricaded subject here at the Rio Frio Hotel. This has been ongoing since approximately 3 p.m., early 3 p.m. After negotiations, these subjects surrendered peacefully,” said Sergeant Orlando De Luna, Texas Department of Public Safety. “As we previously reported, a silver alert was issued for the three children — Frankie, Queen, and King Terrell yesterday.”

Willie and Jessika have been arrested and are awaiting extradition.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a press release, “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the community for your support, tips, and information, which were instrumental in the safe recovery of these children.”

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