MANATEE -- Two missing Manatee County children -- a 1-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy -- have been located unharmed with their parents in North Carolina.
After the Manatee County Sheriff's Office put out a nationwide alert with media and law enforcement agencies across the nation on Friday, the children were picked up by authorities at the residence of an acquaintance of their parents in Battleboro, N.C., around 1 p.m. Sunday, said Dave Bristow, a Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
As of Sunday, no charges had been filed against the parents, David Wayne Whitley and Amanda Gates, but an investigation is ongoing, Bristow said.
The children are now in protective custody in North Carolina, Bristow added.
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The location of the children was made possible by a tip from a person who knew where the family would be in North Carolina, Bristow said.
"I don't know who this person is, but thankfully they notified us, and we were able to notify an agency up there who picked up the children," Bristow said.
The children were picked up with no apparent resistance, Bristow added.
Bristow said he didn't know if the person who gave the tip was a friend or family member or where they were from.
"The most important thing is that the kids are safe," Bristow said.
There may be a hearing in North Carolina to determine if the children should stay in protective custody or be returned to the parents, Bristow said.
"It may be all handled up there," Bristow added.
There are still more questions than answers right now, however.
The incident began when Child Protection Services reportedly went Thursday to check on 2-year-old Devon Whitley and 1-year-old Paisley Whitley at a residence in the 500 block of 77th Street East, Palmetto, but were told by the father, David Wayne Whitley, that the children were with the mother out of state.
When repeated attempts to verify the information were unsuccessful, the sheriff's office decided to put out a nationwide lookout alert, Bristow said.
Now, authorities wonder if the children were actually in North Carolina on Thursday or if they were in Manatee County and were taken to North Carolina after Thursday by the father, Bristow said.
"When someone is told they need to produce their children, they need to produce their children," Bristow said. "When they don't, this type of thing can happen. We put out this alert to the media and to law enforcement agencies because we could not locate the children."
At 1:06 a.m. Sept. 14, Whitley was arrested on a domestic battery charge in the 2900 block of Moccasin Wallow Road for reportedly punching Gates between the eyes several times, according to the sheriff's office.
Deputies reported the couple's argument stepped from Gates wanting to move back to Illinois with the children, according to sheriff's office records. According to Gates, Whitley then punched her.
"We don't know yet what happened this time, but we will find out," Bristow said. "The wife wasn't there when we talked to the husband. He gave us some information. Then, he went to North Carolina. We don't know if the kids were here all the time. So, it's all under investigation."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.