The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 16, 2013

Police find 4-year old boy safe at grandmother's


TARBORO — The aunt and an uncle of a 4-year-old were charged with obstruct and delay Thursday night after their failure to cooperate forced local law enforcement to put together an intense search for the child that lasted four hours and cost the Tarboro Police Department between $5,000 and $6,000.

The couple took the child to his grandmother's house in Conetoe to "teach his mother a lesson," then told authorities they had no idea where the child was.

By the time authorities cleared the scene about 10:30 p.m., the child was at home with his mother and his aunt and uncle were on their way to the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

"Thursday night was a positive outcome and great response from our department and other agencies," Chief Damon Williams said. "We had 14 law enforcement officers respond in less than an hour. The fire chief and sheriff's deputies also assisted in the search."

Police were called to Mobile Home Estates because the mother of a four-year old Hispanic boy couldn't find him, only his book bag in the yard.

That put WIlliams into panic mode and he quickly called on the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Department for assistance with a K-9, because Tarboro didn't have one available. Tarboro Fire Chief Frankie WInslow was also called in to help with his department's infrared light.

With the community being made up of predominately Spanish-speaking citizens, Patrolman Jose Rodriguez was called back to work to help translate.

A nearby Hispanic church also volunteered their time to help search for the child and translate for police.

"This speaks very highly of the department and the community that we get that type of response that quickly," Williams said. "The religious community also stepped in to help search for the boy."

When officers arrived on the scene, the mother told them that she believed that the aunt, Evelyn Cabrera Sugera, and uncle, Juan Elias Espinoza, had taken the child. Officers found Sugera and Espinoza at Wal-mart and told them to come back to the residence so police could question them.

The couple continued to deny knowing where the child was and that forced officers  to undertake a door-to-door to search.

Investigators turned up the heat on the couple and they finally broke down and told law enforcement that the child was at his grandmother's home, because they wanted to teach the mother a lesson.

When officers learned the news, they were relieved because Williams was in the process of calling the Highway Patrol to get a helicopter in the air to help search for the child.

"We weren't as much frustrated as we were concerned when we found out the aunt and uncle knew where the child was the whole time," Williams said. "The mom seemed fairly confident they knew where he was the whole time."