Sandy Hatte, the woman accused of abducting her infant grandson from the state of Florida nearly 13 years ago, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of interfering with custody in Livingston County Associate Circuit Court on Wednesday and was sentenced to one year in jail.
The sentence was suspended and Hatte, 60, was released from jail and placed on probation for two years. Under conditions of the probation, she is not to have contact with her son or the grandson whom she brought to Missouri.
Hatte was charged with the Class D felony of child abduction on Sept. 19, 2013. She was accused of knowingly retaining a child, under the age of 17 years, for 30 days or longer, who had been removed from the state of Florida without consent of John R. Hatte, the child’s legal guardian.
Local authorities began working on the case on Sept. 5 when a school official alerted the sheriff’s office that something was unusual about the custody of a juvenile recently enrolled in that school. Hatte, who was living in Chula, enrolled her grandson in a Livingston County school and claimed to be his actual mother.
In the statement of probable cause filed with Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren, Sheriff Detective Eric Menconi reported that Hatte admitted that she took the child from the state of Florida several years ago and that she does not have legal custody of him.
The report also stated that John R. Hatte said his biological mother took his child and fled Florida in December 2000. He reported his child as missing or abducted in the state of Florida in February 2001. Authorities, however, did not file kidnapping charges against his mother.
John R. Hatte, who currently lives in Alabama and was reunited with his son last month, was in the courtroom when his mother entered the guilty plea and was sentenced.
“It is my understanding that’s all that can be done,” he said.
He said he is uncertain as to why authorities never followed up on the case of his missing son and never issued a warrant for his mother’s arrest.
“John did file a missing persons report,” Warren said. “When he came home from work and found his son missing and his mother missing, he knew what happened.”
All the information collected in the case was given to John Hatte so he could have it available to Florida authorities.
“We’ve paved the way for Florida to pick something up,” Warren said.
The prosecutor said many factors went into amending the original charge to a misdemeanor.
“It was a difficult case with so many variables,” Warren said. “It goes back 13 years and there are a lot of unknowns in that case. There are lot of reasons a jury might acquit her.”
Page 2 of 2 - Additionally, Warren mentioned the difficulty the boy, now 12, might have testifying against the woman who was his caretaker for nearly all of his life.
“She was not accused of abusing the child and she had him enrolled in school,” Warren said. “She stepped on the father’s rights to the child.”
Warren complemented Detective Menconi for working tirelessly on this case.
“There were a lot of law enforcement agencies between Florida and Missouri that didn’t do anything for the child’s father,” Warren said. “We were the first agency to pick this up.”
Warren said Hatte still could face charges, but no more in Livingston County.
Hatte was also assessed 30 days shock detention with credit for time served. Hatte has been incarcerated for 37 days.
John R. Hatte had been looking for his son since his disappearance. Court papers show the family hired a private investigator who located Hatte in a north Missouri county. After law enforcement in that area was contacted, Hatte allegedly took the child and left the state of Missouri, settling in a rural Iowa location until they were discovered there. They subsequently left that location and moved to Livingston County.
In a brief interview with the C-T following the court hearing, John R. Hatte said that his son is doing well.
“I’ve got him around some good people,” he said.