APNewsBreak: New arrest in Texas missing boy case

March 23, 2012 - 3:35 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas authorities arrested and charged a second woman with kidnapping Friday in the widening case of a Houston boy who disappeared eight years ago and was found earlier this month.

Gloria Jean Walker, 50, was arrested at her home in Manor, east of Austin.

Walker is the mother of Krystle Tanner, who was arrested two weeks ago in San Augustine in East Texas and also charged with the kidnapping of Miguel Morin when he was 8 months old, San Augustine County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Gary Cunningham told The Associated Press.

Cunningham said the arrest warrant was based on information obtained from Tanner, investigations by child welfare officials and evaluation of the original 2004 disappearance case handled by Houston police.

"We're still looking for any definitive information concerning how Krystle Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, came into actual custody of the child," Cunningham told the AP. He said other people also may be sought in the case.

Cunningham said Walker was taken into custody Friday morning and transported to the Travis County Jail for arraignment. He said she was being held under $250,000 bond and would be moved to San Augustine, where her daughter is being held. She has not given a statement, Cunningham said.

Five children between the ages of 11 months and 16 years were in Walker's home and have been placed in the emergency custody of child welfare authorities, said Julie Moody, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services in Travis County. She identified two of the children as Walker's and believed the other three were grandchildren.

Cunningham said Walker previously lived in Houston and moved to Travis County at some point. He did not believe she had lived with Tanner in San Augustine and found no evidence of a criminal record.

Walker was questioned by Houston police during the original 2004 investigation. She was told her daughter was a primary suspect in the disappearance and Walker "denied having any information concerning the whereabouts of Miguel Morin."

Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services in Houston, said Friday officials believed Miguel, now 8, may have spent some time with Walker at her home.

"I think he considers her his grandmother," she said.

Child welfare officials also have said the boy identified Tanner as his mother when shown a picture of her.

Tanner was arrested March 12. After seeing reports of Tanner's arrest, her sister called police the next day and offered to turn over the child she believed was Tanner's stepson.

The boy has been placed in a foster home. His parents in Houston are seeking to regain custody while authorities are investigating both this case and disclosures that the couple gave up guardianship of their four other children. A custody hearing is set for next week in Houston.

DNA tests have confirmed Fernando Morin is Miguel's father. Similar tests on Auboni Champion-Morin, who says she is his birth mother, haven't been disclosed. The judge overseeing the custody case ordered the couple have a psychological examination before ruling on their request to at least meet Miguel in a supervised setting without specifically saying who they are.

The child — who knew his name as Jaquan — began therapy on Thursday, Olguin said.

"I just feel so sorry for this 8-year-old child," Cunningham said. "He was moved around, didn't even know his real name, how old he was, when his birthday was. Your heart's got to go out to him."

Officials described Morin and his wife as uncooperative in the days following their 2004 report that Miguel was missing. They have denied the allegation.

"We have always been aware of that big question about their credibility and the circumstances which the child was reported abducted," Cunningham said Friday.

Champion-Morin has said Tanner was a friend who lived in the same Houston apartment complex eight years ago. She was Miguel's godmother, but disappeared when the child was reported missing in 2004.

The case resurfaced last summer when Tanner took the boy to a San Augustine hospital for a leg injury. She could not provide his name or Social Security number, raising doubts among the hospital staff, who contacted child welfare investigators.