The missing Sebastian County 5-year-old boy who was recovered by the FBI following his mother’s arrest in New Mexico arrived back in Arkansas on Friday morning and reunited with his custodial grandparents.
The boy was found safe following an Amber Alert and a major police search Thursday that culminated with an FBI search near Albuquerque.
Rainy Rhae Whitsitt Rouse, 25, of Rio Rancho, N. M., was suspected by police of taking her son, Quinn Whitsitt, from the Central City home where he lived with his grandparents early Thursday morning, officials said.
She has been arrested in New Mexico on a warrant issued from Sebastian County, Ark., and faces a felony charge in Arkansas of interference with child custody, said Daniel Shue, Sebastian County prosecuting attorney. That is a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine, he said.
Whitsitt will appear soon before a magistrate in New Mexico, where she will say whether she agrees to waive extradition so she can be transported immediately back to Arkansas, Shue said. If she fights extradition, the process to return her to Arkansas could take a few weeks, Shue said.
FBI agents had Whitsitt’s New Mexico home under surveillance, when they saw a vehicle belonging to the suspect pull up to the home. They then saw Whitsitt and a small child matching the description of her son Quinn Whitsitt, according to the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.
A few moments later, the suspect and child left the home in a vehicle and were subsequently stopped by FBI agents, authorities said.
Following the FBI’s report to local authorities, the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office started getting warrants for Whitsitt’s arrest on suspicion of burglary and kidnapping.
The mother’s boyfriend, Rodney Romero, who also is from New Mexico, and Whitsitt were considered persons of interest in the investigation, according to a news release from the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.
Whitsitt was profiled in the Rio Rancho Observer newspaper in January and was described as a jiu-jitsu world champion in the “Women`s Purple Belt No-Gi Light” division.
The article states Whitsitt is from Fort Smith, where she became know as Squirrel “for her ability to avoid would-be tacklers” in playground flag-football games.
She studied jiu-jitsu in Fort Smith with instructor Mark Bradford, the article states, though being discouraged by people in Arkansas, including her parents, from getting into the sport.
Romero is described in Albuquerque martial arts websites as being a pro fighter, instructor, black belt and former All-American wrestler.
“Back in Arkansas, a lot of people, including my parents, didn’t want me to do jiu-jitsu. Rolling around with guys, you can’t make a career of it, (or) be a good mom — you don’t do this type of thing,” Whitsitt is quoted as saying in the article.
Early Thursday, Sebastian County sheriff’s deputies started searching for the missing 5-year old boy near Carter Road in Central City.
The boy’s grandparents, who have custody of him, were the last to see him early Thursday (Oct 10), according to authorities.
The boy’s grandfather “checked on the child at 1 a.m., and he was asleep in his bed. At 6 a.m. the child was gone, and both the interior and exterior garage doors were open,” the Amber Alert states.
The FBI notified the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to assist in the search. Whittsett’s personal information was added to the national database.
“We’re going to search from the air,” Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said during the search. “We’re going to search from the ground. We’re going to search the water. We’re going to search this state and any other state. We’ll do what’s necessary to recover Quinn.”