Missing Harrisonville children found safe in Canada, mother charged

bbashioum@demo-mo.comOctober 17, 2013 

Three Cass County children who were taken without consent by their non-custodial mother have been found in Canada after a six-day search.

Cass County Sheriff’s Office officials confirmed on Oct. 16 that Calgary, Alberta, police authorities had found Jordan Davis, 15, his 14-year-old brother Jasper Davis, and 11-year-old sister Tabitha Davis, who have been missing from their rural Harrisonville home since Oct. 11.

The children were alledgedly taken from their home Friday afternoon by their biological mother, 44-year-old Sherri Lynn O’Neal.

Canadian police have not released many details about the children or how they were found, but did state that all of the children are in good health and are cooperating.

The children were located at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday after authorities in Canada confirmed a spotting of the 15-year-old and his mother at a shelter in Calgary on the day before looking for housing assistance for their family.

The social worker who met with the mother and child reported to the authorities after she thought the story the individuals gave seemed bizarre.

Calgary police did an Internet search and found news reports that the individuals were missing from Cass County.

As Canadian police worked through the night in an effort to locate O’Neal, Cass County detectives confirmed with the children’s father, Jamie Davis, that the surveillance video captured from the shelter did reveal the images of mother and the older teen.

In result, the Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Office filed a Class D felony charge against O’Neal for Interference with Custody.

Bond has been set at $30,000.00.

By mid-Wednesday afternoon, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office were notified by Canadian authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the children had been found safe.

O’Neal, along with her 18-year-old son, Jacob Miers, from a previous relationship, were also taken into custody.

The Cass County Sheriff's Office is currently working to coordinate the return of the children and extradition of O’Neal back to the U.S., where she could face additional charges.

The Davis children were reported missing from their home in the 26000 block of Skyline Drive by their father at 5 p.m. Oct. 11.

The children had eaten lunch at home with him as it had been an early release day for the siblings, who attend schools in the Harrisonville School District.

Jamie Davis left the residence at 1:30 p.m. to go to work.

When he returned home from work at 4 p.m., the children were not home.

After calling neighbors and friends in search for his children, he contacted deputies.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office entered the children as missing persons in local, state and national law enforcement databases.

According to Weber, Jamie Davis indicated the children could have been taken by O’Neal, but did not believe she would pose a severe risk of danger to the children.

During their investigations, deputies learned from a distant family member that O’Neal had recently traveled from Alaska to the metropolitan area.

O’Neal was last known to reside in Alaska, and authorities determined that she could be traveling to an unknown location in either a white RV with Arizona license plates or black Mercedes SUV with Alaska license plates.

Law enforcement officials noted earlier in the week that there have been ongoing custody issues between the children’s parents, but the mother hasn’t had any known contact with the children for more than three years.

According to a probable cause statement released by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County court documents stated Jamie Davis as the primary custodial parent.

Per the parenting plan in the case the mother had been allowed visitation the second weekend of each month “commencing Thursday evening after school or 6 p.m., whichever is earlier, until 8 p.m. Sunday.”

The parenting plan also requires the children to be picked up and dropped off at the Cass County Justice Center.

A Harrisonville bus driver for Durham Bus Company told investigators she saw either the 14-year-old or 15-year-old boy put something into a black Mercedes SUV parked at the Davis residence at around 1:35 p.m. Friday, and quickly got into the vehicle.

“We immediately started to put out the word about these vehicles in attempt to locate them,” Weber said.

Deputies made contact with O’Neal’s former stepfather, who told authorities O’Neal and Miers had visited and were on their way back to Alaska.

Miers had been driving a black Mercedes SUV and had been having mechanical problems.

An anonymous tip led Cass County authorities to a black-colored Mercedes SUV with Alaska plates parked at Mercedes Benz of Kansas City dealership.

The SUV’s VIN number responded back to deputies as belonging to O’Neal’s oldest son, Joshua Davis, 20.

Through the assistance of the Jackson County Prosecutor and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Cass County was able to obtain a search warrant for the vehicle.

Detectives searched the vehicle and located a cell phone belonging to 11-year-old Tabitha Davis.

“The vehicle was left at the location at that time with the hope that someone would come back and retrieve under constant surveillance,” Weber said.

No one did, and as of Wednesday, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office recovered the vehicle.

On Sunday evening, Cass County officials entered the children into the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Endangered Person Advisory and alerted the media since there had been no contact with the children or O’Neal for 48 hours.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 15, deputies were contacted by Canadian police who said a social worker at a shelter reported being contacted by a white female, later identified as O’Neal, and a male juvenile, Jordan Davis, who would not identify themselves after asking for housing assistance for the family.

O’Neal told the shelter that they had ran away and snuck across the Canadian border to escape an abusive relationship. The shelter would not help the mother and reportedly became angry and left.

“When she left, the social worker called the local authorities,” Weber said.

Due to the nature of the story O’Neal had given the social worker, Canadian police conducted an Internet search and located photographs and missing persons information released to the media from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

Police then showed the photographs to the social worker who identified the individuals as O’Neal and Jordan Davis, and contacted Cass County and FBI officials.

At that time, Calgary police began an intensive search for the Davis children.

“When the shelter opened back up this morning, we were able to get some video surveillance photos and the father did confirm the photos were of Sherri O’Neal and Jordan,” said Weber, during a press conference Wednesday. “Based on that information, detectives from our office were able to apply for an arrest warrant for Sherri.”

No immediate details are known how police found the children and the mother, but Cass County authorities were contacted by Canadian officials Wednesday afternoon to notify that the mother and the children have been taken into custody.

Weber said authorities had no record of O’Neal crossing the Canadian border.

“Canada is trying to investigate that now,” he said.

In addition to thanking the Calgary Police Department, FBI, Cass and Jackson County Prosecutors, Jackson County Sheriff, and the Kansas City Police Department for their help in this investigation, Weber said the media was “instrumental” in getting the photos out of the children and of O’Neal to local sources, across the country and in Canada.

“We believe that’s what helped break this case,” he said.

Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley issued this statement:

“I would like to commend the Cass County Sheriffs' Office for their constant effort to get the children returned safely,” she said. “And also I'd like to thank Jackson County for their assistance to the Cass County Sheriff's Office in this endeavor. We are glad the children are safe.”

Weber said the Sheriff’s Office will be working diligently to bring the children home and to extradite O’Neal back to Cass County.

“Our first and primary concern is to make sure the kids are healthy and reunited as quickly as possible with the father,” Weber said.

Cass County officials said Jamie Davis was also revealed to find out his kids had been found.

"His first question was, ‘How long is it going to take to get my kids back?’" Weber said.

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