Family Abduction is a Serious Matter

By now you’ve learned that we have Tavia Bentley back safely.  Last night, just after 8:30 Tavia Bentley was recovered safely and her father Sebastian Campbell was taken into custody without incident in the 14000 block of Dolphin Street in Detroit.  Tavia was unharmed.  She had been with her non custodial father for the two day period.  Tavia was last seen by her grandmother with whom she lived at about 4am on Sunday and was discovered missing at 8am.

I would like to call your attention to the excellent work by our personnel from start to finish on this case. 

Officer Angela Iacobelli received the initial report.  She was told  that the child had run away but through her initial investigation she realized that it was more likely that she could have been abducted by a non custodial father.  She took the proper steps and contacted her supervisor, Sgt. Jill McDonnell. Now before you say to yourself, “What is the big deal–her father just wanted to be with her.  She’s safe…”   I would call to your attention recent events in which non custodial parents have proven lethal to their children.  The recent house explosion  in Utah is a case in point.  We didn’t have information that Tavia was endangered –but we didn’t have information that she wasn’t.  And her father’s parental rights had been severed by a court–clearly the court did not believe she should be in his care.   

The officers canvassed the neighborhood seeking any information anyone might have that give us some leads.  They searched areas around the home.  They interviewed family and friends seeking more background on where she might be.  One of the most alarming aspects of the incident was the very young age of Tavia–she’s 11 years old.  Officers consider the “zone of safety” which means that we must consider where a child might be related to their age and developmental stage.  An 11 year old who is out alone in the wee hours of the morning raised their level of concern. 

Once they learned other facts that yet further concerned them (which I cannot specify here), they contacted Detective Scott Edwards who was at the station as the on call detective working on warrants for prisoners in custody.  Sgt. McDonnell also contacted Lt. Hardesty who agreed with her level of concern given the facts at hand.  He mobilized Detective Brian Martin, who is the acting Investigations Division commander.  I was contacted by 11:19 am–the original report came in at  8:00 am.  I came in as well and things were very much in motion.  They had set up in the Emergency Operations Center and were strategizing the steps to be taken to notify the public, ask for their help and determine which leads to follow based on information they had to that point.  

I think I’ve mentioned before what a great sense of satisfaction I get in watching our investigators work.  I don’t think you could find people better trained, more experienced or more committed than our people.  They worked a very long day on Sunday, working until there were virtually no more leads they could pursue that night, went home and came back in early the next day and picked up on new information that came in overnight.  They sought and got very valuable help from the Maryland State Police who visited the father’s home and with skilled investigators were able to secure more information.  They worked all day Monday and had worked all useful leads to a standstill at about 6pm.  We had told Detective Edwards to go home because we would likely need him later than night to interview the girl because we believed we were slowly moving toward a recovery.  He had worked 14 hours the previous day and 9 hours on Monday.  It is important to note that once an investigator has become deeply involved in a case it is non productive and even detrimental to introduce a new investigator to do the interview because there simply isn’t a way to completely transfer the depth of information about the case that the first investigator has.  Then a new and important piece of information came in–it was strong information that indicated where she was at that moment–we sent the officers from the Troy Special Investigations Unit of which we are a part and the US Marshals who had been assisting us, speeding to the scene.  We had a belief they could be leaving on a Greyhound bus and contacted Greyhound to hold a bus scheduled to leave at 6pm and search it –they weren’t on it.  By then we were hot on the trail of some other important leads.  We went to a house where she was believed to be located and when she wasn’t there moved quickly to follow up on more potential locations.  After a quick series of actions between 6pm and 8:30 pm, she was located at a 3rd location.  Her father was taken into custody without any problem. 

These cases are often a complex set of facts and this one was no different.  Both the father and daughter were interviewed to learn their version of what had happened.  What the ultimate outcome of this case will be, I don’t know.  Juvenile and family court authorities are reviewing this case to determine what is in the best interests of Tavia.  Her father remains in custody and is likely to be charged with a crime related to this situation. 

The Troy and Southfield Police Departments Special Investigation Units, Bloomfield Twp Police, the U.S. Marshall’s Office, the Maryland State Police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children all assisted in locating Tavia and taking Campbell into custody.

Family abduction is a very serious crime but a very challenging one for police to investigate.  I am proud of the job that our officers and investigators do when confronted with difficult challenges like this one.  I have seen them many times rise to the occasion and bring us the best possible outcome.  It is just not a simple world…..


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I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.