By JOSH NEWTON
Authorities are trying to piece together what they believe was an incomplete – and to some extent, “exaggerated” – story of a 3-year-old boy being kidnapped by his father Tuesday night.
Kegan Manning, the boy who was at the center of an Amber Alert Tuesday night and Wednesday, was placed into the custody of the Department of Human Services Wednesday afternoon, according to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Sanders.
The boy was in good condition when he was picked up by the Tulsa Police Department, Sanders said.
“The dad is not going to be taken into custody at this point, based on the information we got Wednesday morning,” said Sanders.
According to Sanders, the boy’s mother told deputies Tuesday night that Johnny Manning and his family members surrounded her on a county road, slashed her vehicle’s tires, then took the child and left.
Based on that information, sheriff’s dispatchers and investigators spoke with state officials, and the Department of Public Safety opted to issue an Amber Alert.
Sanders and Investigator Kathy Young conducted an interview with the boy’s mother Wednesday morning.
“It would be safe to say the mother’s story was not complete,” said Sanders. “In areas, it was exaggerated; in other areas, not at all explained.”
Based on the interview with the child’s mother, investigators learned she works in Tulsa and lives at Tenkiller Harbor.
“She was driving back home from working in Tulsa, and for some reason, she drove through Cherokee Wildlife Management area, where you turn off through Zeb and come out at Qualls,” said Sanders.
That’s where Johnny Manning and several other people – who apparently followed the woman from Tulsa – allegedly surrounded her in three vehicles. Sanders said one tire was slashed on the woman’s vehicle.
Johnny Manning, in an interview with a Tulsa TV station Wednesday evening, said that happened after the woman ran over his foot.
The woman claims Johnny Manning and his family forced her to write out and sign two custody agreements for the child, but Johnny Manning told Tulsa media she agreed to the document, and it was notarized in her presence.
They then changed the tire on her vehicle, and Johnny Manning rode with the child’s mother to a home where the boy was being watched by a family member.
“Mom goes in, gets the baby out of the bathtub, dresses him, gives him to the daddy, and the dad leaves and goes back to Tulsa,” said Sanders. “She never called; she never called 911. She left there, drove to Fin and Feather to her boyfriend’s, and never once tried to call 911. She said she didn’t have service, but she didn’t stop at a house, a store, no where to use a land line.”
The woman’s boyfriend suggested they call police, and that call was made a half hour to an hour after Johnny Manning left the county and headed for Tulsa.
Sanders said the boy’s mom claimed she didn’t call for help immediately because she had been threatened.
“That’s the story deputies got, and dispatchers got,” said Sanders. “The story didn’t really get hashed out completely, and that’s the information that was used for an Amber Alert. At the time, it was the right thing to do, no question, based on the information we had.”
Investigators said that when they interviewed the boy’s mother Wednesday, she told them she didn’t believe her child was in danger. In fact, Sanders said, the boy’s mother called Johnny Manning twice and talked with him and her son.
During one of those calls, Johnny Manning told the woman he was at a family member’s house eating dinner, and he and the child would later be going to a hotel for the night.
On Wednesday, the boy’s father reportedly went to speak with a lawyer about the situation.
“The mom probably did feel intimidated. They did apparently stop her, threaten her, cut her tire, so there was a crime apparently committed,” Sanders said.
Authorities in Tahlequah have spoken with Tulsa police, DHS officials, and with prosecutors in Cherokee County. Sanders said Johnny Manning will be interviewed about the situation, and prosecutors will eventually decide what charges to file in the case, if any.
“The main thing here was to make sure this kid was safe,” said Sanders.