A community scrambled after 4-year-old Jeremy Guthrie was abducted early on the morning of Aug. 5. After a short search, the boy is safely back with his mother.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
- IN CUSTODY : Police arrested Annette Hale on Aug. 5 of suspected kidnapping after a 12-hour search for 4-year-old Jeremy Guthrie in Atascadero.
On Aug. 5, the Atascadero Police Department reported that Guthrie had been abducted, allegedly by 52-year-old Annette Hale, from the El Camino Homeless Organization located in the First Baptist Church in Atascadero. Police issued a widespread amber alert, coordinated with local media, opened tip lines, and began searching for the boy.
Guthrie was located in the early evening of the same day in an abandoned Atascadero car dealership and reunited with his mother soon after.
Community members rallied after news of the kidnapping broke, clogging online comment sections with tips, posting and re-posting news stories on Facebook, and some had even planned a candlelight vigil.
Hale was arrested and booked in the San Luis Obispo County jail on $1 million bail for alleged kidnapping. If convicted she could face between three and eight years, according to state penal codes. She had a few prior crimes, according to the Atascadero Police Department, but no history of kidnapping or violent crime.
It took about 12 hours to locate Guthrie after he was reported missing, sometime around 6 a.m. The search was conducted with more than 70 law enforcement officials including the Atascadero PD, Atascadero State Hospital, Paso Robles PD, California Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Pretty much every city employee who was working, or could, came in,” Atascadero PD Public Information Officer Gregg Meyer said.
Guthrie was located after someone made a 911 call and reported the boy had been seen at the abandoned car dealership.
“We now have reason to believe the caller was the suspect,” Meyer said. “Don’t ask me why.”
Hale was located and arrested shortly after without incident.
Guthrie sustained no injuries but was taken to Twin Cities Community Hospital for evaluation and released.
Asked about the search, Meyer said it was overwhelmingly successful given the various agencies involved and the fact that training for multi-jurisdictional operations are usually aimed at natural disasters.
“The longer an incident goes on the less likely you are to find the person or at least find the person in good health,” Meyer said. “… The fact that it went as well as it did is a testament for the agencies to work well together.”