PORT ANGELES — The dad told his former wife he was going to take their 13-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old son out to dinner Friday evening.
Instead, Warren O. Murphy, 37, and his female companion, Pricilla A. Montes Cruz, 39, both of Fontana, Calif., allegedly kidnapped the children from their mother’s Port Angeles home and also took Cruz’ child with them, authorities said Monday.
Califonia Highway Patrol officers safely retrieved the children in Willows, in northern California, more than 700 miles away, at 5:20 a.m. Saturday after stopping the couple’s vehicle, California and Port Angeles police officials said Monday.
Murphy and Montes Cruz were being held without bail Monday in the Glenn County, Calif., jail, for investigation of kidnapping-custodial interference, according to the jail roster.
The brother and sister remained in the custody of California Child Protective Services on Monday, authorities said.
Murphy is the biological father of the girl and not related to the boy.
The mother told police Murphy was estranged from his daughter for the past 11 or 12 years, four of which he had spent in prison.
Murphy does not have a prison record in Washington state, state Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said.
Cruz’ child, whose age and gender were unavailable Monday, also was taken into CPS custody, according to the CHP’s arrest report.
Law enforcement officers were on the lookout for the couple’s rental car on the basis of an Amber Alert and with help from T Mobile, which tracked his phone, authorities said Monday.
Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith said T-Mobile agreed under an “exigent circumstances request” to track Murphy’s cellphone without a warrant.
CHP officers who were on the lookout for the couple’s white Nissan apprehended them on Washington state warrants on Interstate 5 about 725 miles south of Port Angeles, according to the CHP arrest report.
Authorities began looking for them after the children’s mother called 9-1-1 at about 11:55 p.m. Friday.
She told authorities that Murphy had first ignored her calls Friday evening, then said he had just ordered food for the children, then ignored her calls again, then told her he was taking them to California.
Murphy also ignored pleas by an officer who contacted him by cellphone.
They, too, implored him to turn around, according to the probable cause report.
Earlier Friday, Murphy and Montes Cruz had tried to take the 13-year-old girl from Stevens Middle School, according to the probable cause report.
They were stopped by a school resource officer who told them they needed a court order to take custody of the child.
The school resource officer told them that they needed a court order and were warned if they took custody of the girl, they would be arrested for custodial interference and/or kidnapping.
Montes Cruz allegedly committed second-degree kidnapping by renting the vehicle used in the crime and by being “present and complicit” in Murphy taking custody of the children by deceiving the girl’s mother and taking them out of state, according to the probable cause report.
The case remains under investigation by the Port Angeles Police Department and the FBI, Smith said.
Mark Nichols, Clallam County prosecuting attorney, said Monday he may file charges by Friday, after which Nichols could seek extradition of Murphy and Montes Cruz.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.