A 60-year-old woman accused of abducting her infant grandson from his father's Florida home in 2000 has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in northwest Missouri.
Sandy Hatte was charged last month in Livingston County with felony child abduction, but she pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor interference with custody and was given a suspended one-year jail sentence and placed on two years' probation, The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/17fTgTt ).
A school administrator became suspicious, and called authorities, leading to the pair's discovery. The boy's father, who lives in Alabama, was reunited in September with his 12-year-old son. The father was in the courtroom Wednesday and said afterward, "It is my understanding that's all that can be done."
Livingston County prosecutor Adam Warren said all information collected in the case was given to the father so that he could give it to Florida authorities.
"We've paved the way for Florida to pick something up," Warren said, who noted that several factors went into his decision to amend the felony abduction charge to a misdemeanor and avoid a trial.
"It goes back 13 years and there are a lot of unknowns in that case. There are a lot of reasons a jury might acquit her," he said.
Warren also said the boy might have trouble testifying against Hatte, who was his caretaker for nearly all of his life.
"She was not accused of abusing the child and she had him enrolled in school," Warren said. "She stepped on the father's rights to the child."
Northwest Missouri authorities began working on the case Sept. 5 when an administrator at a Livingston County school alerted the sheriff that something was unusual about the custody of a new student. Hatte, who was living in Chula, had claimed to be his mother, the school official said.
Hatte was arrested within two weeks. A detective said Hatte admitted to him that she took the boy from Florida in December 2000 and that she did not have legal custody of him.
The father, who reported the boy's disappearance to Florida authorities in early 2001, told the newspaper Wednesday that his son is doing well.
"I've got him around some good people," he said.
Investigators found that Hatte and her grandson had lived in several Missouri cities since 2002 while she took jobs at residential care facilities. A private investigator hired by the boy's family traced Hatte and the child to another northwest Missouri county in February of this year, but Hatte fled when she was contacted by law enforcement.
Jocelyn Meservey, administrator for the public school in Chula, said last month it was evident the child had gaps in his education and had lived in several different places.
"He definitely had some education, but he hadn't been enrolled in any school for several years," she said.