PORT RICHEY The search for a 2-year-old Port Richey boy ended Tuesday night with law enforcement returning the child to his mother.
According to authorities, the boy was taken by his father, who reportedly has joint custody. But investigators are still standing by their decision to issue an Amber Alert.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says 2-year-old Bane Wheeler’s father, Daniel Wheeler, took him Tuesday morning from a Port Richey day care while Bane’s mother was distracted.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Wheeler didn’t deny the accusations. He said he even gave police a heads-up.
“I said, ‘I’m just letting you know that sometime either tonight or in the morning I will be trying to snatch and grab my kid and run,”’ said Wheeler over the phone. “If she does not have him, if she’s not touching him, I will grab him and leave.”
After Wheeler took the child, he was in contact with law enforcement, but by the afternoon investigators say he stopped answering the phone.
“The father basically ceased contact with us, intentionally,” said Capt. Eric Seltzer. “So when he did that and then learning some of the new information that we did — that he was on felony probation — seeing his background, the manner in which he took the child, that elevated things.”
That’s when a missing child necessitated an Amber Alert, which usually only happens if there’s evidence the child’s life is in danger.
Detectives say they stand by their decision to elevate the level of their search.
“He is on felony probation, he does have family violence issues, there was reported domestic violence,” said Seltzer. “So those kinds of things all factor into if this child safe, and we make that kind of decision as we go along.”
Investigators say Wheeler hasn’t been charged, but the investigation is ongoing.
Wheeler told us he’s going to keep fighting.
“By what I’m told, I didn’t break the law, there’s no charges,” said Wheeler. “Will I even be able to fight for him tomorrow? Because I will spend the rest of my life fighting for him, because that’s what you do for your kids, especially when you’re a real parent.”
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says they will be reporting back to Wheeler’s probation officer before determining if he violated the terms of the agreement.
Over the phone, Bane’s mother said her three children are terrified, but they are all home and safe. She was able to bring Bane home around 5 a.m. Wednesday.