Metro-East News

Hunt for Madison County teen and baby ends in W. Va. mountains

Police start national manhunt after 13-year-old, infant son kidnapped

September 2016 file video: Kidnapping charges were filed and a national manhunt started after Katherine Derleth, 13, and her infant son, Christopher Ray Derleth, were kidnapped, Madison County Sheriff's investigators and prosecutors said.
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September 2016 file video: Kidnapping charges were filed and a national manhunt started after Katherine Derleth, 13, and her infant son, Christopher Ray Derleth, were kidnapped, Madison County Sheriff's investigators and prosecutors said.

A week-long national manhunt for a Madison County teen and her newborn baby ended with a police raid on a remote West Virginia campground Saturday, after public pleas and missing-child notices went up across the country.

Police reported that 13-year-old Katherine Derleth and her infant son, Christopher Derleth, were located and rescued in West Virginia about midday Saturday. Katherine’s stepfather, Christopher M. Derleth, was taken into custody, and the children were taken to an area hospital, according to Capt. Mike Dixon of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

Katherine, of Greenville, gave birth to baby Christopher on Sept. 1, as Bond County officials were investigating her stepfather. Katherine and baby Christopher had been placed with a foster home in rural Madison County, and Derleth, 39, was issued a court order to stay away from them.

But sometime between 9:30 p.m. Sept. 16 and 9:30 a.m. the next day, Katherine and baby Christopher were taken from the foster home. Police believed Derleth had removed them and fled with both children.

Detectives searching for the missing teen and her baby were worried that the two were living in poor conditions because of the infant’s recent birth and the mother’s frail health. Katherine had had a cesarean section and has a pacemaker to correct a congenital heart defect, officials have said.

On Monday, Madison County prosecutors charged Derleth with aggravated kidnapping and child abduction. The van he and the children were believed to be traveling in had been spotted midday Monday on Interstate 77 near Charleston, West Virginia, where a statewide search by authorities was being conducted.

At that point, Madison County deputies drove out to West Virginia and coordinated with the U.S. Marshals, West Virginia State Police and officers from Kanawha County, near Charleston.

“They didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate,” Dixon said. “We were all very concerned about this baby and the mother.”

We were all very concerned about this baby and the mother.

Capt. Mike Dixon, Madison County Sheriff’s Office

Authorities had described Christopher Derleth as an outdoorsman who left the area equipped with tents and sleeping bags, and suspected he was using remote areas to camp. As it turned out, Dixon said, the area where the three were eventually found was a rural, mountainous range with a permanent campsite where they had been hiding.

Dixon said while he was not aware of specific medical details for Katherine or baby Christopher, his officers’ visual observation was that both were in good health. They were being evaluated Saturday at a local hospital, he said.

Dixon said he could not speculate further about the relationship between Katherine and her stepfather, only that Bond County officials had an investigation ongoing before the children were taken, and that there was a restraining order keeping Christopher Derleth away from Katherine. Katherine was living with guardians under the protection of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services when Derleth allegedly kidnapped her.

“I don’t know at this point who the father of that baby is,” Dixon said. “The Bond County police officials are conducting their own investigation of Christopher.”

I don’t know at this point who the father of that baby is. The Bond County police officials are conducting their own investigation of Christopher.

Capt. Mike Dixon, Madison County Sheriff’s Office

Greenville Police Officer Russell Rieke said Saturday that it was too soon to know whether additional charges will be filed in Bond County, since their investigation of Derleth is ongoing. Rieke said paternity testing on baby Christopher had not yet been performed when the children vanished, and that would be taking place. Further details could not be released, he said.

Meanwhile, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said Saturday his office was already beginning extradition procedures to bring Derleth back to Madison County to face “a full measure of justice” in criminal court.

“It is such a tremendous relief to know that these two young victims will be returned safely,” Gibbons said. “I am so grateful to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police and everyone who assisted in the search and apprehension of the defendant.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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