A woman accused of kidnapping her biological children said she was duped into the scheme by another of the youngsters’ relatives, who convinced her the boy and girl were in imminent danger, an arrest affidavit says.
Christina Steele, 36, of Palisade, was arrested in June and has since been charged formally with two counts of second-degree kidnapping.
A codefendant, Lloyd Williams, is also charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping.
Christina Martinez, a relative of the children, was accused of second-degree kidnapping and obstructing an officer; formal charges are due to be filed July 30.
The children’s stepmother has had full legal custody of them since the death of their father.
According to Steele’s arrest affidavit, on June 25, Steele and Williams showed up unexpectedly at the stepmother’s home, wanting to take the children for a picnic.
Their arrival was “upsetting to everyone,” Montrose Police Detective Samantha Graves wrote in the affidavit.
Despite her misgivings, the children’s custodial parent allowed them to leave with Steele and Williams, who she assumed had arrived on foot.
However, Martinez had allegedly given them use of her car and was hiding in the backseat, according to what Steele would later tell police.
When the children did not reappear within about an hour, their custodial parent called police, who determined Steele had several warrants out; this made them suspect she was planning to flee with the kids.
The stepmother also alleged to officers that Martinez, a relative of the children, had previously caused problems by filing false reports with child welfare. Although she thought Steele had severed ties with Martinez, the woman said it was possible the other two women could be together.
Police reached Martinez by phone and were told she had not heard from the kids. She also said she would reach out to Steele through social media, although Steele had blocked her previously.
But when Graves told Martinez the kids had been reported as kidnapped, and that she was obligated to say where they were if she knew, Martinez became “hostile,” said she understood, and hung up, the detective said.
Police and the children’s stepmother were able to see when someone in Olathe logged into one of the children’s Instagram accounts. Martinez lived in Olathe and police there began looking in the area, where they located the kids, with Steel and Williams, at an address on West Fifth Street.
Graves inquired as to their welfare, and one of the children said “Oh, just dealing with multiple traumas,” the affidavit says.
The same child told Graves that Martinez had driven them to Olathe and that as soon as they got into the car, the child “pretty much” knew they would not be going home.
Per the affidavit, during her interrogation, a sobbing Steele told Graves
Steele told Graves that Martinez got in touch and told her the children were in danger in their home.
The news left Steele “distraught” and although she did not usually trust Martinez, “she somehow was sucked into believing that her children were in grave danger,” the detective wrote.
Martinez allegedly offered to drive Steele and Williams to collect the kids and during the ride, kept asking Steele to sign over custody — a legal right Steele no longer had.
Detective Patrick Demers interviewed Martinez, who, he said, corroborated Steele’s story.
“Martinez said she did what she did out of concern for the safety of the children … She said she essentially decided to take matters into her own hands and described what she did as ‘kidnapping.’” the affidavit says.