A 60-year-old woman and her young grandson moved around Missouri for years while she took jobs at residential care facilities until a suspicious school official called authorities, putting an end to their itinerant life.
Sandy Hatte is now charged with felony child abduction, accused of taking the boy from his Florida home nearly 13 years ago.
The boy, now a teenager, has been reunited with his father, who lives in Alabama.
Hatte appeared, disheveled, in Livingston County court Wednesday morning, shackled at the waist, wrist and ankles. Judge Paul Valbracht set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 23 for Hatte, who’s being held on $25,000 bond. Her public defender, Melinda Troeger, declined to comment after the hearing.
Livingston County sheriff’s detective Eric Menconi would not release the names of the boy or the father, nor did he give details about the alleged abduction.
Menconi speaks daily with the father, who he said is “ecstatic.” In the probable cause statement, Menconi wrote the father reported his son missing or abducted in Florida “on or about February 2001.”
Larry Jones, a Kansas City-area private investigator hired by the family earlier this year to find the boy, said the father recalled his mother parking a moving truck outside their Florida home in December 2000.
“The dad said there had been a moving truck sitting outside the house for a couple days, and when he asked his mom about it and she said, ‘Well, I bought some new furniture and I need to move the furniture.’
“And when he came home, the truck and everything else in the house were gone,” Jones said.
Menconi said the father was “using as many resources as possible to track his son, but hit a dead end until Sept. 5.”
On that day, the Livingston County sheriff’s department started investigating after a school official told authorities “something was unusual about the custody of a juvenile recently enrolled in that school,” the probable cause statement said.
It’s largely unclear how and why Hatte made a life in Missouri with her grandson. Menconi said investigators have an idea of what brought Hatte to Missouri, but he couldn’t divulge that.
“Our investigation showed they had been in Missouri since as early as 2002, in pretty much several cities,” Menconi said. He said he could not detail which cities because of the investigation.
Hatte spent at least a few years working for Bristol Manor, a Sedalia-based residential care company with several facilities around Missouri, said Joyce Furnell, senior vice president for operations for Bristol Manor.
They did background checks on Hatte and found nothing that raised alarms, she said Wednesday.
Furnell also said she met Hatte’s grandson, who appeared healthy and well cared for. She said they also appeared to have a normal, loving relationship.
Jocelyn Meservey, administrator for the public school in Chula where Hatte tried to enroll her grandson, said Wednesday it was evident the teenager had gaps in his education and had lived in several different places.
She said the teen had been attending classes in the small northwest Missouri town for a few weeks before she called authorities.
“I think hopefully his dad will be able to get him some services,” she said, adding, “I do think he’s pretty sharp. He’s a very articulate young man.”