Ailing boy taken from hospital is found safe; father and grandmother charged

A 5-year-old boy in need of a heart transplant was found safe with his father and paternal grandmother at a motel near Chicago early Wednesday, hours after his father allegedly abducted him from a St. Louis hospital where he was being treated.

Illinois State Police caught up with the three at a motel in Alsip, a suburb south of Chicago, at about 3 a.m., and sent the boy, Porter Stone, to a hospital, although he appeared to be fine. When he was taken, he had as little as a day's worth of medication in his portable IV, St. Louis Children's Hospital said.

Jeffrey Stone and his mother, Rhonda Marie Matthews, both of Hercules, Calif., were arrested and were being held Wednesday in the Alsip jail on $1 million bond each, Alsip police said in a statement. St. Louis prosecutors charged them both with kidnapping, interfering with custody and endangering the welfare of a child.

Jeffrey Stone's sister, Heather Minton, also was arrested but was not charged, Alsip police said.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday if Porter had been returned to his mother, who 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 her son in December.

Porter was hospitalized Friday for evaluation for a heart transplant and was discharged about 3:50 p.m. Monday. Hospital spokeswoman Jackie Ferman-Grothe said Jeffrey Stone took the boy with him, purportedly to get a prescription filled, while the mother was getting the car. Ferman-Grothe said the father walked out with the boy. When they didn't return, the mother contacted police.

Jeffrey Stone, 33, called and texted his estranged wife several times to taunt her, St. Louis police officer Cole wrote in a probable cause statement. He called Tiffany Stone names, told her where he had their son and refused to let her speak to the boy, she said.

Porter appeared to be healthy until a few months ago, when he went to the hospital with flulike symptoms. He was eventually diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, said Charlie Canter, medical director of St. Louis Children's Hospital's heart failure program.

Canter said that in patients with the condition, the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and can no longer pump blood efficiently. The Cardiomyopathy Association said it affects people of all ages and is mostly inherited, though Canter said Porter had no family history.

“By the way he presented, it seemed possible he had an infection of the heart,” Canter said.

That was initially good news because some patients can be treated with oral medication. But Porter's condition worsened and he required IV medication, Canter said. In recent weeks, even the IV medication wasn't working well, prompting the need to add him to the heart transplant list.

“There's still a chance he could recover,” Canter said. “But we have to prepare for the worst and the worst is he will not recover and will continue to deteriorate.”

Canter said children Porter's age typically have to wait several months for a donor heart to become available. If the transplant occurs and is successful, the new heart typically lasts 15 to 16 years. If that heart fails, the patient can go back on a transplant waiting list assuming his health is otherwise strong enough for a transplant.

Canter said Porter had 24 to 48 hours of medicine with him when he left the hospital. Once that ran out, he would most likely have developed flu-like symptoms, though he would not likely have been in immediate danger of dying, the doctor said.