Friday, August 30, 2002

Kidnapped southern California boy found at campground, mother arrested

Canadian Press

Debra M. Rose, in this undated photo released by the Riverside Co. Sheriffs Dept., was wanted for questioning in the disappearance of her 9-year-old son Nicholas Michael Farber. (AP)

JAMUL, Calif. (AP) - A nine-year-old southern California boy abducted by gunmen from his father's home earlier this week was found safe Friday and his mother and an unidentified man were arrested, authorities said.

Nicholas Farber was found at a campground in Jamul, about 30 kilometres east of San Diego, Riverside County sheriff-elect Bob Doyle told a news conference in Palm Desert, where the boy lived with his father.

The boy was abducted at 2 a.m. local time Wednesday by two men who broke into the home of Nicholas's father, Michael Farber, beat him up and took his son. A day later, authorities named the boy's mother, Debra Rose, and her former roommate as suspects.

Nicholas was the subject of a custody dispute between Rose and Farber, 47, who married in 1991 and divorced in 1996.

A motor home authorities said they believed was carrying the boy was found at the Thousand Trails park, a remote location amid dry, scrub-covered and boulder-strewn mountains 130 kilometres southwest of Palm Desert.

Security officer Harold Stayton said the motor home's licence plate was obscured but he inspected it closer and realized the motor home was the one being sought.

Sheriff's deputies quietly evacuated neighbouring motor homes before knocking on the door, Stayton said.

Rose, 38, and a man who has not been identified were arrested, FBI agent Richard Garcia said.

Nicholas and his mother were flown aboard a sheriff's helicopter back to Palm Desert, where the boy was reunited with his father and Rose was jailed, said San Diego Sheriff's Sgt. Rod Gilmore.

TV news cameras videotaped the woman kissing the boy's head in the back of a patrol car.

Authorities said Rose appeared to have altered her appearance, cutting her blond hair and dyeing it black. Nicholas's hair also appeared to have been cut and dyed.

Doyle said investigators were continuing to search for others involved in the kidnapping, including Rose's former roommate, Carla Bender of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The boy lived with Rose until she was arrested Aug. 15 in Colorado and held briefly for allegedly violating a restraining order involving another ex-husband. Farber went to Colorado and took Nicholas, then was granted temporary custody by a California court, which scheduled a Sept. 5 hearing on the father's bid for permanent custody.

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