Texas Agency Clears Kidnapped Kids' Mom of Abuse Charges

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Texas' child welfare agency has cleared a Hurricane Katrina survivor of allegations she abused her five children, who were allegedly kidnapped by their caretaker last month.

Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin told the Houston Chronicle in its online edition Thursday that no abuse or wrongdoing was found in its investigation of Erica Alphonse, 24. She said the family "has the right to go on with their everyday lives."

Rhonda Tavey, a former Red Cross volunteer, had befriended Alphonse and her family, who were among the thousands who fled to the Houston area after Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. Tavey agreed to take care of Alphonse's five children while Alphonse sought to rebuild her life.

In July, however, Tavey refused to return the three girls and two boys, ages 3 to 8, and took them to the Dallas area, claiming Alphonse was abusive.

After being on the run for nearly a month, she was arrested last week and charged with five counts of kidnapping.

Alphonse said she was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, but Tavey's attorney Dick DeGuerin said it did not go far enough.

Harris County prosecutors have also said they found no evidence to support Tavey's claims of abuse.

On Monday, Tavey had gone to a Houston court and filed paperwork saying she should get custody of the because of alleged physical abuse, family violence, drug abuse and child neglect by their mother.

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