News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 28, 2011

PHOTO UPDATE: Hunt on for missing 4-year-old

Arrest warrants issued for alleged abductors; Valley authorities request Federal assistance

TERRE HAUTE — Federal assistance has been requested in the case of a 4-year-old Terre Haute boy allegedly abducted Tuesday morning by a Terre Haute couple.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Nicholas Runyon, 24, and April Diana Bell, 28, for the alleged criminal confinement of John M. Johnson-Christian.

Detective Jimmy Richardson of the Terre Haute Police Department testified Wednesday in Vigo Superior Court 6 that bank transactions indicate the couple may have taken the child as far as Pennsylvania.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Richardson described Johnson-Christian as a 4-year old white male, approximately 3 feet, 2 inches tall weighing 40 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a “pair of blue and red “Thomas the Train swimming trunks and Spiderman flip flops.”

Richardson told Judge Michael Lewis that officers were dispatched Tuesday to a house in the 700 block of North 131⁄2 Street where Runyon lived. Police took a statement from the child’s mother, who said that around 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, Runyon and Bell came to her home in the 2500 block of North Sixth Street and asked permission to take him to a birthday party for Bell’s son.

Johnson allowed the child to go with the couple, but instructed them to return the boy by 11 a.m., Richardson said. The mother contacted Bell by text messages that morning, the detective said, but by 9:30 or 9:40 a.m., the responding text messages stopped.

Richardson said that Runyon’s father contacted Johnson and asked about the boy, but then told the mother that “there might be a problem.”

The detective said he also took a statement from Runyon’s cousin, who said that on three occasions since July 22, she had heard Runyon and Bell talk about how they planned to take the 4-year-old boy and relocate. The cousin told police she discouraged the couple from acting on their plan, and did not think they would carry through with it.

After police began their investigation, they got a “ping” from Bell’s cell phone indicating that it was near Lieber State Recreation Area. They located the “ping” in a wooded area along Interstate 70 near the Clay-Putnam county line, and figured that the phone was probably thrown out of a vehicle window, Richardson said.

The detective told Judge Lewis that while Runyon claims that he is the child’s father, there is juvenile court documentation stating that another man is the child’s biological father. Runyon became involved with the child’s mother when the boy was about 6 months old, Richardson said.

Also during the investigation, Richardson said, he received a call from Bell’s parents who said their bank had contacted them about odd transactions in their bank account. The parents told the detective that their daughter and Runyon had been at their home on Friday, and that they believed Bell and Runyon stole bank cards from a wallet.

Judge Lewis issued arrest warrants for both Runyon and Bell on a charge of criminal confinement, a class-C felony. He also set bail for each suspect at $50,000 cash only.

Richardson said that federal authorities have been brought onto the case because it is believed the couple have traveled out of Indiana.

Richardson also told the judge that he had no luck getting an Amber Alert issued by authorities for the abducted child because it is unknown if the child is in “imminent danger” of harm.

The judge termed the lack of an Amber Alert being issued for this abduction “ridiculous.”

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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