Charges have been filed against a 39-year-old man who police say took his 13-year-old stepdaughter and her infant son.
Christopher M. Derleth is charged with aggravated kidnapping and child abduction for allegedly taking his stepdaughter, Katherine Elizabeth Derleth, and her son, Christopher Ray Derleth, over the weekend.
The charges were announced Monday by Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons and Sheriff John Lakin.
The whereabouts of the children still are unknown.
Katherine and her son, Christopher Ray Derleth, were last seen by guardians on Saturday night. When the two were not seen Sunday morning at the guardians’ home, the guardians notified police.
Police believe the children and Christopher M. Derleth were traveling in a green 1997 Mercury Villager minivan with Illinois license plates E833210 and possibly headed to West Virginia.
“These charges allow us to issue a nationwide warrant for the arrest of Christopher Derleth,” Gibbons said. “We hope that authorities will be able to apprehend him quickly and bring these two young people safely into protective custody so they can be returned to the area.”
“We are asking for the assistance of authorities from here all the way to the east coast because we believe they may be in West Virginia or somewhere along the way,” Gibbons added.
According to Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Veronica Resa, the children were in the care of the department at the time of the kidnapping. She said the guardians who had custody of Katherine and the baby were not present at the time the children were taken.
“DCFS is involved with the family, and the investigation is pending,” Resa said Monday. She said the case was opened in April.
Lakin said the children were taken from a home in Carpenter, a tiny village north of Edwardsville and just west of Hamel.
The aggravated kidnapping charge against Christopher Derlath states he “knowingly and secretly confined” the baby, who was born Sept. 1. It’s a Class X felony that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The child abduction charge states Christopher Derlath violated a Bond County court order forbidding him from “concealing or detaining” Katherine. That charge is a Class 4 felony with a maximum punishment of three years in prison.
Information on the Bond County order was not available because juvenile cases are sealed. Gibbons said that court order is related to an ongoing investigation.
“There is a prior, ongoing case at work in Bond County, and so based on that court order (Christopher Derleth) is not allowed to be in contact with (Katherine,) he is not allowed to have her in his custody and he is certainly not allowed to be removing her from the jurisdiction,” Gibbons said. “Our immediate interest is the safety of the two minors, and that arises out of the kidnapping and abduction case.”
Neither Gibbons nor Lakin would share additional details about the Bond County case, but Gibbons said “it’s safe to say (Katherine) was removed” from her home in Bond County.
Lakin said police are worried about the children because the infant is so young and because Katherine so recently gave birth.
“We have two people that are some place in the United States unknown to us or unknown to their caregivers that are without medical treatment.” Lakin said. “A 19-day-old child needs medical care that I don’t think a 13-year-old is prepared to deliver. We also have to look at a situation where a 13-year-old young lady delivered this child 19 days ago and she may need some medical care as well.”
Lakin said an Amber Alert has been issued in West Virginia. According to media reports in West Virginia, police reported seeing the Mercury Villager headed south on I-77 in the city of Charleston. The reports also stated police were worried about Katherine’s health because she has a pacemaker.
Deputies in a statement earlier Monday noted that Christopher Derleth “is an avid camper” and that he and the children “may be at a rural campground or low-end hotel/motel.”
Lakin said that if Christopher Derleth took the children into the woods in a desolate area, that would make their situation more dire.
“That kind of ramps things up just a little bit higher for us as far as the well-being of that child,” he said. “How do you take care of a 19-day-old child if you’re camping in the hills of West Virginia? How close is medical care in the event that the child gets sick or if there’s complications from the delivery of that child by the 13-year-old?”
Katherine is described as 4-foot-8 and 95 pounds, 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 Derleth is described as 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and has brown hair and hazel eyes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at 618-692-4433.