By William Lee and Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — A 5-year-old boy awaiting a heart transplant was taken from a St. Louis hospital Tuesday by his father, who then taunted the boy’s mother in calls and texts before police arrested him and found the boy safe in a motel room in Alsip, Ill., authorities say.
Porter Stone was found unharmed with his father Jeffrey Stone, 33, and his paternal grandmother, Rhonda Marie Matthews, authorities said. Stone’s sister and another child, a young girl, were also found with them.
During the nearly 12 hours the boy was missing, Jeffrey Stone repeatedly called and texted the boy’s mother, Tiffany Stone, taunting her and calling her names and refusing to let her speak to her son or tell her where they were, prosecutors in Missouri allege in charging documents.
Police were able to tell the phone was not in Missouri, but officials did not immediately confirm that they used the cellphone to track Stone to Alsip.
Stone and Matthews were taken into custody and the boy was taken to a hospital to be checked, though he seemed fine, according to St. Louis police. Doctors had expressed concern when the boy disappeared because he suffers from cardiomyopathy — a weakening of the heart — and was hooked up to a portable IV containing just a day’s worth of medication.
Stone and Matthews are charged in arrest warrants with kidnapping, interfering with custody and endangering the welfare of a child. They are being held on bail of $1 million each. Charges are pending against Stone’s sister, Heather Minton, 37, of Chico, Calif. The girl, who police said is 3 or 4, was taken into protective custody along with Porter.
Porter is at the center of a custody dispute between Stone and the boy’s mother, Tiffany Stone. Tiffany Stone is in the process of divorcing Jeffrey Stone in Tarrant County, Texas, according to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office. The Texas court awarded her custody of the boy in December.
“We never thought in our wildest dreams that he would do anything like this,” Porter’s maternal grandfather, Matthew Fife, said.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Porter after his father took him from St. Louis Children’s Hospital around 4 p.m. Tuesday, police said.
Porter, who lives in St. Joseph in northwestern Missouri, has been traveling back and forth between St. Louis and Kansas City for treatment of his condition. On Tuesday, the family decided to place the boy on a heart transplant list. Porter was then discharged so he could be monitored by doctors closer to home in the Kansas City area, authorities said.
Stone took him to the hospital pharmacy, police said. He then called the boy’s mother, who was also at the hospital, and told her “he was taking his son,” police said. The Amber Alert said Stone and Porter were seen leaving the hospital in a silver four-door Toyota Corolla with California license plates, according to police.
Around 3 a.m., Alsip and Illinois state police found the car in the parking lot of the Baymont Hotel after receiving “reliable information,” Alsip police said in a statement.
“Review of the hotel video surveillance confirmed that Porter had checked into the hotel and officers were able to determine which room Porter was located in,” police said.
Because of Porter’s condition, police said they entered the room and took the boy to a hospital to be evaluated. Stone, Matthews and Hinton were arrested without incident, they said.