DES MOINES, Iowa – A Burlington girl missing more than a year has been found in northern Mississippi in a run-down mobile home with her mother, who is accused of kidnapping the child and forcing her to use a fake name, authorities said.
Trashanda Waytes, 9, disappeared in November 2005, one month after a judge awarded her father custody of the child. Authorities said they used a tip to track the girl to Byhalia, Miss., on Tuesday night, and her father was traveling Wednesday to Mississippi to bring his daughter home.
Ron Waytes may be in for quite a shock when the two are reunited.
"She denied she was Trashanda Waytes," said David Jolley, a U.S. Marshal based in Memphis, Tenn. "She denied to officers she was the missing girl from Iowa the whole time, until her mother finally fessed up. ... Apparently the mother pressed it upon her that she follow this story — that the child go by the fake name. That's who she thought she was."
Trashanda was 8 years old when she was taken from her father. Ron Waytes was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.
U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies tracked the girl to the mobile home, and her mother Charlotte Bassett was arrested at a nearby residence. Jolley said Bassett was also living under a fake name.
The mother was being held Wednesday at the Marshall County (Miss.) Jail without bond until she's returned to Iowa. She is charged in Burlington with felony kidnapping and violations of a custodial child custody order.
Jolley said living under such "cloak and dagger" conditions has dramatically affected Trashanda.
"A child having to live a lie for a long period of time like that is not a good thing," Jolley said. "It makes for a very unstable lifestyle for the child — moving around a lot and most they cases are not regularly attending school like they should be. It just makes for a very unstable atmosphere."
He said the mobile where the girl was found was "quite poor. It was very run down. I don't even know how to describe it. It's just a sad situation for any child to have to be in. But the good thing is we found her."