Woman waited for 3-year-old’s father to go to work before attempting to take child to Texas, records show
911 call shows father told dispatcher mom was not involved
APOPKA, Fla. – The mother of a 3-year-old girl accused of attempting to take the child to Texas, causing an Amber Alert, waited for the girl’s father to go to work before calling her boyfriend to pick them up, court records show.
Interviews and a 911 call made by Madeline Mejia’s father paint a different picture than what was originally described by police as a child abduction leading to an Amber Alert.
An arrested warrant for the woman and her boyfriend obtained by News 6 Friday show the child’s mother, Tania Duarte, 19, was staying with the father in Apopka prior to attempting to take the child to Texas. Duarte told Madeline’s father earlier in the week she wanted to take their daughter to Texas but he refused, she told authorities.
[RELATED: 3-year-old Apopka girl at center of Amber Alert found in Tallahassee | Mother, boyfriend at center of Apopka Amber Alert booked into Orange County Jail | FHP releases video of investigators arresting amber alert suspects]
Madeline’s father was granted sole custody of the 3-year-old by an immigration court and he had documents showing this court order. Duarte did not have custody of the child.
Madeline’s father learned of the plan to take his daughter Monday morning when his father called to say Duarte’s boyfriend’s car had been circling their Apopka street. The grandfather said he needed to go to work and could not keep an eye on Madeline or her mother, according to interviews.
Madeline’s father left work and called 911 and reported that he believed the 3-year-old mother was taking her. However, he said the operator told him the mother can take her child. News 6 received a 911 call Friday as part of a records request but it does not show that interaction.
Duarte told police she waited for her child’s father to leave for work and then asked her boyfriend Kevin Olemdo-Velis, 19, to pick her and the toddler up to go to Texas.
Both Duarte and Olemdo-Velis said they did not think the girl’s father would call the police and knew they did not have permission to take the toddler.
When Madeline’s father arrived home he found the mother and child gone, police said. He immediately called Apopka police, investigators said.
The 8:11 a.m. 911 call shows a language barrier made the father’s request for help difficult.
Through a Spanish interpreter, the emotional father told the dispatcher his daughter was outside playing on a bike when she was taken, the 911 call shows. Apopka police would later say this was not the case.
Madeline’s father said he followed the car for a while until he lost it and had to turn around to call 911 since he left his phone at home, police said.
The dispatcher repeatedly asked where the child’s mother was.
The father said he didn’t think she was involved because she left them two years ago and does not have custody. He also said she was in Texas at the time.
“Do you know if the woman in the vehicle was the mother?” the dispatcher asked.
“No, no we don’t know," the interpreter replied translating the father’s answer.
Later in an interview with Apopka police, the father said he believed the suspects were taking his daughter to Texas.
He explained to investigators Madeline’s biological mother, Duarte, lives in Houston, Texas and believes she was involved, according to the report.
The father gave police Duarte’s phone number and said she has a new boyfriend but didn’t know anything else about him.
Records show authorities used cell tower data to track Duarte, showing she was near Lake City around 8:44 a.m.
The report shows Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents, as well as Florida Highway Patrol troopers, later spotted a vehicle matching the description with Texas tags on I-10 traveling west.
FHP troopers pulled over the vehicle and arrested Duarte and Olemdo-Velis near Tallahassee. Two other people in the vehicle were turned over to immigration officials, according to FHP officials.
Madeline and her father were reunited around 6 p.m. Monday at the Apopka Police Department.
Duarte and Olmedo-Velis are charged with interference with child custody. Both suspects were transferred from Leon County to the Orange County Jail Thursday.
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