Amber Alert Canceled as Trinity County Girl Found
By Greg Ritchie
TRINITY COUNTY – An amber alert issued out of Trinity County for a missing 8-year-old girl has been rescinded as she was found safe and unharmed and arrests have been made in the case.
Trinity County Sheriff Woody Wallace put out a notice about the successful conclusion of the case. The alert had been shared far a wide by concerned Houston County residents online and on social media.
The alert for Haven Barker went out Wednesday, Mar. 8 telling the public she was last seen with her mother’s boyfriend, Charles “Chaz” Estep driving in a two-door Honda Accord, destination unknown.
The alerts stemmed from a welfare check request to the girl’s home in Coldspring from a concerned neighbor who knew the child was in a difficult situation and had requested assistance from Child Protective Services. (CPS) There was also an allegation of illegal activity at the home.
Sheriff Wallace reported investigators contacted the Baker’s school but were told she had not been to school since her complaint to CPS. Investigators learned the parents had tried to remove Baker from the school over the phone but were told this must done in person.
With the school concerned as well about Baker’s safety, investigators spoke with several family members who told them the parents had tried to send Baker to live with them.
“Speaking with one of the family members, we discovered Estep had shown up at that person’s house in San Jacinto county and had attempted to drop the child off,” Wallace said in a posted statement. “On a second occasion, he tried to drop the child off again and was told, ‘No,’ so he (Estep) dropped all the child’s belongings off into the driveway and left with the child.”
Baker was seen one more time, this time in Trinity County before she and Estep disappeared. After repeatedly returning to the house and not locating Baker investigators dug deeper into the case, securing a search warrant for the rented residence.
Detectives found some of Baker’s things in the house, but no other belongings were there. This concerned the sheriff’s department even more.
“Why would anyone leave a house abruptly like that – you could tell it was in a hurry – and take everything except the rest of the child’s belongings,” Wallace noted.
The sheriff’s department applied and was granted an amber alert which got the attention of other law enforcement agencies and citizens in a wider area.
Reports began quickly coming in, even from Colorado where people reported having seen the vehicle in question. Deputies knew the mother did have family in Colorado and when contacted, confirmed the mother had come by that day unannounced but had already left.
Colorado law enforcement located the car later that night at a nearby hotel.
Estep was arrested on a Texas parole violation and is being returned to Texas. CPS determined Baker was in no immediate danger and left her with her mother. Wallace said the investigation is ongoing as to what led to these circumstances and why it happened and make sure Baker will be safe.
Wallace went on to thank law enforcement in both Texas and Colorado along with other agencies who helped and to the public who saw the amber alert and were alert and located the vehicle so quickly.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]