Detectives searching for a missing teen and her baby son are worried that the two are living in poor conditions despite the infant’s recent birth, the mother’s frail health and a lack of medical care.
That’s according to Madison County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mike Dixon, who said Thursday that police still have no leads in the case of Katherine E. Derleth, 13, and her three-week-old son, Christopher R. Derleth. The two were reported missing Sunday from a foster home in rural Madison County.
Police charged Christopher M. Derleth, 39, with aggravated kidnapping and child abduction on Monday. The van he and the children are believed to be traveling in was last spotted midday Monday on I-77 near Charleston, West Virginia, where a statewide search by authorities is ongoing.
A statement from Madison County Sheriff John Lakin released Thursday said Christopher M. Derleth “is an outdoorsman and left the area equipped with tents, sleeping bags, and goods ... that would commonly be gathered for a camping trip. He has talked with friends/family in recent months about free camp sites throughout the country and is likely staying in a campground, national forest, or a rural wooded area, that would allow for free or inexpensive primitive camping.”
The possibility that Christopher M. Derleth may be keeping the children in a primitive camping setting has detectives worried, as Dixon noted that the health of a baby so recently born is a serious concern. Christopher R. Derleth was born Sept. 1.
Dixon also said Katherine delivered the baby via C-section. That’s a major surgery even under ideal conditions, police said, and the recovery from one could be put in serious jeopardy because police are skeptical Katherine has access to postpartum care.
Katherine “is still under a doctor’s care as it relates to the procedure and birth of her son,” the statement said.
The teen also had a pacemaker implanted at birth because she suffers from a congenital heart condition. Dixon said that requires special equipment to ensure it’s working.
“She doesn’t have that. If it fails, this would be a life threatening event,” Dixon said.
We want the public to know how serious the situation is. This child’s life is in danger in multiple ways, as well as the infant’s. The average criminal is not going to put the welfare of someone else above his own.
Madison County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mike Dixon
Detectives are also worried that Christopher M. Derleth won’t seek medical care for the children even if they need it.
“We want the public to know how serious the situation is. This child’s life is in danger in multiple ways, as well as the infant’s,” he said. “The average criminal is not going to put the welfare of someone else above his own.”
Dixon said police are sure Christopher M. Derleth won’t try to return to Illinois.
“He’s not coming back here. He would be foolish to do so, he knows that,” Dixon said.
He pleaded, as police have all week, that anyone with information about where Katherine and the baby might be notify the Madison County Sheriff’s Department or their local police.
The children are “in the middle of a very critical, serious situation. We need the nation to come together,” Dixon said.
Katherine stands 4-foot-8 and weighs 95 pounds, has brown hair and eyes and has three birthmarks on her right knee.
Christopher Ray Derleth has dark hair and eyes, is 21 inches long and weighs 9 pounds, 3 ounces.
Christopher M. Derleth stands 6-foot-1, weighs 160 pounds and has brown hair and hazel eyes.
Police also are looking for Christopher M. Derleth’s green 1997 Mercury Villager minivan with Illinois license plates E833210.
Katherine and the baby were in a foster home in Carpenter, north of Edwardsville, when they were last seen around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Police were notified 12 hours later when the guardians could not locate the children.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons noted in the charges filed against Christopher M. Derleth that an active criminal investigation in Bond County had resulted in a court ordering him not to take Katherine into his custody.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at 618-692-4433. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is working closely with police on the case and can be reached at 1-800-843-5678.