(Columbia County) An infant who was abducted from Wisconsin Rapids was found safe in Columbia County Thursday. Read the full press release:
On August 5th, 2021, the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department issued an Amber Alert for a 2-month-old infant who was abducted by their non-custodial mother. We had learned that the mother no longer had parental rights. It was believed that the mother was also with a male accomplice. Law Enforcement across the state were given a vehicle description and possible license plate.
Information was discovered by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department that the abductor’s vehicle had passed through Columbia County earlier in the morning and was possibly in the Rio area. The Rio Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office sent numerous officers and deputies to the area to start searching.
During the search for the abducted child, a Columbia County Deputy located the suspect’s vehicle in the Village of Rio. This suspect vehicle had been spray painted, the plates removed and different license plates were attached, and other attempts of disguising the vehicle were made.
After confirming that this was indeed the suspect vehicle, Columbia County Deputies, Rio Police Officers, and DCI Special Agents started searching apartments and residences in the area. After clearing numerous apartments and finding no infant or the suspects, law enforcement officers found them in an apartment in the Village of Rio. The suspects were not cooperative and would not exit the apartment. The male suspect announced to law enforcement that he was in possession of a firearm and demanded law enforcement leave the residence. Law Enforcement Officers could see the infant and the suspects in the apartment, but they would not come out.
A Columbia County Sheriff’s Office negotiator was able to immediately start talking to the suspects and deescalated the situation. After about 30 minutes of negotiations, both suspects surrendered and were taken into custody without incident. A handgun was found and recovered as evidence.
The infant was found and as a precaution was given medical attention by both Rio and Aspirus DSH EMS and later taken to a local hospital to be checked over. The child is currently safe and in the custody of child protective services.
The abduction suspects were identified as:
Haley Nichole Pelot, age 28 of Wisconsin Rapids
Nicholas Shawn Hope, age 36 of Wisconsin Rapids.
Both individuals were taken to the Columbia County Jail for outstanding warrants and violations of their probation/parole. Additional charges are forthcoming from multiple jurisdictions as their crimes were committed in several different counties.
After both subjects were taken into custody, the investigation revealed that they had been assisted and harbored by the tenant of the apartment where they were discovered.
Sonja Lynn Lawless, age 32 of Rio was also taken into custody and booked into the Columbia County jail for harboring/aiding a felon.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office was assisted in this investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, Rio Police Department, Wisconsin Rapids Police Department, Rio EMS, Aspirus Divine Savior Paramedics and Blystones Towing and Recovery.
We are grateful that the baby was found safe. I am thankful for the efforts of numerous law enforcement agencies to find this baby. This is another example of great police teamwork between state and local law enforcement agencies.
Sheriff Roger Brandner