FRANKLIN, Ind. -- After more than two years apart, an Indiana mother has been reunited with her three children.
Laura Vivas, 50, the paternal grandmother of Leeanna Dinkens' children, was arrested after authorities said she took the children from Indiana in 2008 and hid out in the Mexican state of Morelos until marshals hunted them down.
At a news conference Friday, authorities declined to say how they found Vivas and the children. She and her boyfriend, Javier Hernandez, had been awarded temporary custody of the children, but they didn't show up to court or return the children when Child Protective Services said the girls could go back to their mother, police said.
"That is our understanding of the reason Laura Vivas took them out of the country, that she didn't want to return the children to their mother, and in fact took the children in violation of the court order," said Johnson County sheriff's Lt. Doug Cox.
The images of Dinkens' daughters -- Sierra, Jasmine and Jaden -- had been frozen in time for her since their disappearance during a custody battle.
"I felt like I was at a funeral," she said. "I felt like my girls were gone, and I was never going to see them again."
Dinkens and her family were devastated, but they never gave up hope.
"Not when it comes to your kids or grandkids, you don't (give up)," said Cindy Rippy, the girls' maternal grandmother. "You just don't throw in the towel."
Authorities used phone records to track the girls' whereabouts. Dinkens was told last week that they had been found.
"I almost had a heart attack," Dinkens said.
Dinkens endured more heartbreak when she finally reunited with her daughters in Houston.
"My two youngest don't know me as their mom," she said.
Jasmine, now age 5, and Jaden, now 3, speak very little English, so Dinkens keeps showing them pictures to help them acclimate.
Sierra, now 10, may have the hardest time adjusting to her new home in Indiana.
"It didn't have no doors," she said. "It was like camping outside."
The girls just met their half-sister, Hailey, 1, and have yet another sister on the way.
The oldest children are in school again. Their family asked 6News not to reveal where they live.