L. A. Times

August 30, 2002

Mother of Kidnapped Boy Is Hunted

Abduction: Authorities say she and a friend are suspects, in addition to two men who took child.

Los Angeles Times

Sheriff Issues Appeal
Sheriff Issues Appeal (AP)

Nicholas Farber
Nicholas Farber

Debra Rose
Debra Rose (AP)

Carla Bender
Carla Bender (AP)

The mother of Nicholas Michael Farber is now considered a suspect in the disappearance of the 9-year-old boy, who was taken from his father's Palm Desert home by two armed intruders in the middle of the night, Riverside County officials said Thursday.

Riverside County Sheriff-elect Bob Doyle said 38-year-old Debra Rose and a friend and former roommate, Carla Bender, are suspects in the abduction of the boy. Also wanted by authorities are the two men who actually carried out the kidnapping--breaking into the boy's home, beating his father and fleeing with Nicholas in a white SUV.

Nicholas had lived with his mother in Colorado until she was jailed earlier this month. The boy is the subject of an acrimonious custody battle, and his parents were scheduled to go to court Sept. 5 to debate his living arrangements.

Authorities had said earlier that Rose was not a suspect in the case, despite suggestions of a serious feud over the boy's custody.

Rose and Bender have not been seen since Nicholas disappeared. In recent days, both women missed scheduled court hearings in unrelated cases, officials said.

"We do believe that they are intimately involved in the kidnapping," Doyle said Thursday.

He would not discuss the basis for investigators' suspicions about the two women, but he said authorities discovered Rose's recently purchased 2002 GMC pickup truck Thursday afternoon in a Stateline, Nev., parking lot. Stateline is near Lake Tahoe.

Doyle also said Rose's troubled history is cause for concern about the boy's safety. The mother has divorced five times, violated a restraining order and been accused of an addiction to prescription drugs, court records show.

"With Debra's background, we are still concerned for Nicholas' safety," the sheriff-elect said. "We still feel the child could be in danger. She may not necessarily be in a stable condition."

Michael Farber, manager of an upscale Mexican restaurant in the Palm Springs area, stepped before a bank of television cameras Thursday morning to appeal for his son's safe return.

"Please come forward now," said Farber, who was limping badly from the beating delivered by the kidnappers.

Farber and Rose were married in 1991 and divorced in 1995. He was her third husband.

Authorities played a copy of Farber's call to 911 after the kidnapping. On the tape, as a dispatcher tries to calm him and confirm information about the suspects, he is heard screaming, "They stole my son!"

Investigators have released a description of the men who abducted Nicholas. One is described as 5 feet 8, 175 pounds with black hair and a goatee. The second man was wearing a stocking over his face and a dark sweatsuit, but Farber told police that he is 6 feet 3 and 240 to 250 pounds.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call a hotline at (760) 836-1632. A $46,000 reward has been established for information that helps authorities locate Nicholas.

Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times