A child abduction that spanned almost one week and at least five states ended Saturday morning when agents with the FBI in Ohio took Charles Dean Partin and Julie Ann Bethke into custody.
Recovered safely were 15-year-old Ailene Lander and five siblings. Lander was abducted during a doctor’s appointment last Monday in Dothan, prompting authorities to begin an exhaustive search for her stepfather, Partin. The mother, Bethke, was later added to the search. Dothan police said there was reason to believe Lander was in ‘medical danger.’
The family was reportedly found at a residence near Cincinnati. Partin was taken into custody on a federal kidnapping warrant. Bethke was wanted on a state charge for interfering with the custody of a minor.
Few details were released Saturday by the Dothan Police Department, but the release did state Lander and the other children were safe. The Dothan release did not elaborate on how Partin and Bethke were found, or other circumstances surrounding their capture. All missing child alerts and BOLOs for suspects have been cancelled.
Partin, Bethke and Lander were seen in East Texas as recently as Thursday morning, when they sought help from a church. Charles Hensley, Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church of San Augustine, said the family sought gas money and that Lander did not seem to be in distress.
“She didn’t indicate there was any type of problem. She behaved like she was just a normal 15-year-old girl,” Hensley said. “I’m just broken hearted over this. If this girl is in danger, which it did not seem like she was. She had the opportunity to cry out for help if she needed it. It just didn’t seem like any of the children were in trouble.”
But Hensley did say he recalled the couple answering some of his questions sort of “funny.” The couple told Hensley how they were apparently headed back to Georgia after coming from South Texas, which he said didn’t make much sense since San Augustine is a few hours north of a direct route along Interstate 10.