Authorities Seek Second Person in Calif. Missing Boy Case
Nicholas Michael Farber was taken from his father's home by two gunmen early Wednesday in another Southern California kidnapping.
Riverside County's Sheriff-elect Bob Doyle said in a press conference Thursday morning that authorities are looking for Carla Bender (pictured far left), a roommate of Nicholas' mother, Debra Rose.
Doyle said that Bender is not a suspect. The woman is probably traveling with her 12-year-old son, Keenan, and may be traveling with Rose.
Doyle told reporters that Bender may have had access to a witness vehicle that police are also searching for in connection with the case.
"We are looking everywhere" for Nicholas, Doyle told reporters at the news conference.
"We feel that possibly by locating these people they'll have information hopefully that can help lead us to where Nicholas is or possibly Nicholas is traveling with one of these two," said John Kaiser of Riverside Sheriff's Department.
"This is still a kidnapping and we need to treat it as such," said Kaiser when discussing possible custody issues in the kidnapping case. "We want to bring Nicholas home quickly, safely and unharmed."
The men forced their way into a home around 2 a.m. and attacked Michael Farber, then hauled his son, Nicholas, away in a white sport utility vehicle, said Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Patrick McManus, who serves as a local police chief.
Investigators were trying to locate the boy's mother, Rose, 38, of Colorado Springs, Colo., but she was not considered a suspect, McManus told reporters.
The parents had a "bad relationship" and there was a dispute as to who had legal custody of the boy, but the father had physical custody, McManus said.
At an afternoon news conference on Wednesday, Doyle announced that police are searching for a witness vehicle. The vehicle was described as a white, GMC with temporary Colorado license plates and plate number H12197. He urged anyone who had seen that vehicle to call 911 immediately.
Doyle also said he had a message for the boy's mother, who police continue to look for.
"Please contact us, we need to talk to you. You are not a suspect at this time, but it is important that we talk to you, so please dial 911," said Doyle.
Rose may have had access to the gray, witness vehicle, according to an FBI representative.
Authorities in Colorado said Rose was arrested two weeks ago and held for one day for violating a restraining order there.
She was last seen in Colorado, according to police.
California Highway Patrol and Riverside County authorities initially said they were issuing an Amber Alert, notifying the media and the public about the missing boy. But later in the morning, CHP Officer Douglas Kondo said they had instead posted a regional child abduction alert.
Kondo said the case did not yet merit an Amber Alert because authorities did not have specific information such as the vehicle's license number.
The alert system was adopted in California after the slaying earlier this year of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion in Orange County. The alerts are named for a 9-year-old Texas girl kidnapped in 1996 and later found dead.
FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin emphasized that the crime was being investigated as an abduction by strangers but that all avenues were being pursued.
"Everything is still in play. We have not ruled anything out," McLaughlin said.
The California Highway Patrol and FBI joined Riverside deputies in the search for the boy, described as white, 53 inches tall and weighing 55 pounds and has brown hair with blond highlights. He was last seen wearing Fruit of the Loom underwear.
"We will find you," McManus said at a televised news conference, urging the kidnappers to leave the boy at a safe location, such as a fire station or a hospital.
"Our main concern is to get the kidnapped child back," McManus said.
The latest in a series of child abductions that has frightened Southern California this year occurred in a white, single-story home in an upper middle-class neighborhood near desert resorts 120 miles east of Los Angeles.
Deputies arrived at the home two minutes after Michael Farber's 2:08 a.m. call but there was a delay in getting a description of the kidnappers because the father was hurt and had to be treated at a hospital.
Neighbor Andy Larios said that he was awakened by Nicholas' father screaming. He went to his window and saw a man running with the boy in his arms. "(The police) got there pretty fast," Larios said.
Nicholas' father was treated at Eisenhower Hospital for cuts and bruises and was released at 5:10 a.m., according to NBC4. Authorities are questioning Farber to get more information about the incident.
"The father was injured and, quite rightly, in a state of shock," McManus said.
Investigators released a composite sketch (pictured below) of one suspect described as possibly Hispanic, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 175 pounds, in his early 30s, with a medium build and a goatee, dressed in a dark sweat suit and carrying a dark-colored bag.
The second suspect is a black or Hispanic man who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 250 pounds. His age is not known. He was last seen wearing dark sweats and a brown nylon stocking over his head and face.
The boy's father told investigators he saw three or four people in the white SUV.
There was at least one other witness, a child who saw Nicholas being taken to the vehicle, an FBI spokesman said.
Rose was arrested by Colorado Springs police on Aug. 15 for violating a temporary restraining order, said Lt. Melissa Hartmen of the El Paso County sheriff's office.
According to records released by the 4th Judicial District Court in Colorado Springs, the order was taken out against Rose on Aug. 5 by an ex-husband, Stanley Rose of Colorado Springs. She was ordered to stay away from Stanley Rose and two children, 6-year-old Winter Rose and 5-year-old Dane Rose.
Debra Rose was arrested after Stanley Rose reported she called him several times in violation of the order. Stanley Rose also told police that Debra Rose's estranged husband called him twice. The records did not identify the estranged husband.
Rose was arraigned Aug. 16 and was set for an Oct. 9 trial on the misdemeanor.
"The FBI came over here earlier today and asked some questions," said Colorado Springs resident Lucia Harrison, who lives next door to where Rose lived with four children for a few months until moving away about two weeks ago.
In Orange County, an Aug. 23 filing in a family court case was set for a Sept. 5 hearing. Details of the case, which dates to 1995, were not immediately available.
Michael Farber was renting a room in the Palm Desert home where the abduction occurred, said Ralph Pierce, 72, of San Marcos, who is the uncle of a Los Angeles woman who owns the house. Pierce learned of the abduction when he arrived to do kitchen remodeling.
Pierce said Michael Farber, who works at a local restaurant, had told him he recently flew to Colorado and got his son after learning of his wife's arrest.
"Michael went after him two or three weeks ago," Pierce said. "Somebody called him about it."
Michael Farber traveled to Colorado Springs this summer to find Nicholas, whom he tracked down through his ex-wife's fifth husband, Brent Landrum, the Orange County Superior Court documents said.
When he found Nicholas, Farber wrote, his son was "tired, dirty, unkept and hungry," the documents claimed.
In a declaration filed with the court, Stanley Rose said the boy's mother abuses morphine, Demerol and other drugs. She has no permanent address or job and survives on unemployment and child support, Stanley Rose said.
The boy's mother has been married five times, according to court documents, and has used the names Debra Marie Landrum, Debra Marie Rose and Debra Marie Farber.
People in the neighborhood of homes with well-kept lawns and cactus and rock gardens awoke Wednesday to find deputies guarding the abduction scene.
"I'm a little scared," said Domenic Pomponio, 12, who was out riding his bike.
Domenic, who had never seen Nicholas, said his mother let him out to play but was keeping an eye on him. "She said be careful," he said.