Kid-Snatch Parents Nabbed By Pennsylvania Police
The parents accused last week of snatching their eight children from a Forest Hills foster-care facility remain in custody of law enforcement officials in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where they await extradition back to Queens, authorities said.
Shanel Nadal, 28, the biological mother of the eight children, and her husband Nephra Payne, 34, were arrested by police in Pennsylvania late Monday night after they were discovered living with the children in a van without license plates, parked on a street in Harrisburg.
The children, seven boys ages 4 to 11 and an 11-month-old girl, were reported in good condition and are in protective custody with Pennsylvania child care officials.
The parents are making strong allegations that some of the children were abused while in foster care under supervision by the city Administration of Child Care Services. Nadal allegedly told police in Harrisburg that the couple snatched the children “because of the abuse,” law enforcement officials said.
Nadal and Payne snatched the children on September 19, during a supervised visit at the Forestdale Child Agency on 112th Street near 67th Drive in Forest Hills. The abduction set off a week long manhunt for the couple that involved Queens police and agents from the FBI Child Abduction Squad.
The parents lost custody of the children amid serious allegations that Payne abused his sons, authorities said. City officials placed the children among three foster homes after the allegations surfaced, splitting the boys into two foster homes. Nefertiti was placed in a third home after her birth in September 2010, authorities said.
Both parents made frequent visits with the children at the foster-care agency, arriving on time and abiding by rules established by the agency, authorities said.
The baby’s foster mother was at the Forestdale Agency on September 19, during the parent’s routine visit with the children – which took place under the watchful eyes of two staff members, police said.
The woman told reporters, “Nothing was out of the ordinary,” when she arrived with the baby for the visit. The foster mother said she waited on a bench about 25 feet from Nadal and the children, “giving them privacy” as the children played and interacted with their mother.
The foster mother said a she looked up, approximately 15 minutes into the visit and they “were gone.”
Law enforcement sources said Nadal took the children to a vending machine inside the agency while the foster mothers waited outside and then slipped out a back door with them. Staffers who were supposed to be with Nadal and the children were nowhere in sight when she left the building, the sources said.
Officials at Forestdale, a contractor of the city Administration for Children’s Services, declined comment.
In their search for the family, Queens detectives reached out to law enforcement agencies in some areas of South Carolina where the couple lived for two years, police sources said.
A spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said it is unclear when the parents will return to Queens.
If the parents waive extradition to New York, Queens detectives could head to Pennsylvania late this week to bring them back, law enforcement sources said. Their return could take up to three weeks, if Nadal and Payne decide to fight extradition, the sources said.
The city Administration for Child Services (ACS) released a statement saying they are taking Nadal’s allegations of foster care abuse “very seriously.” Agency officials said their first concern is the well-being of the children, who would be returned to the custody of ACS.
An attorney for the parents told reporters his clients took the children from Forestdale in an attempt “to remove them from an environment of abuse.”
Law enforcement sources told the Gazette it is currently unclear what will happen to the children when they return to New York City. “No one can say for sure if they will be returned to their current foster families,” the sources said.
Nadal and Payne are facing multiple charges of kidnapping, custodial interference and child endangerment.