KETCHIKAN - A woman with two boys on the lam from Texas was apprehended in a small southeast Alaska village after crew members on a regional ferry recognized them from photos issued by the Amber Alert system.
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Alaska State Troopers in Klawock on Christmas Eve arrested Lelah Jeanne Sullivan, 48, based on a Texas fugitive arrest warrant. She is being held on $100,000 bail.
U.S. marshals were in Ketchikan in mid-December trying to find Sullivan. She was accused of fleeing Texas with her sons age 13 and 16, who had been placed in a Texas foster home.
Photos of the woman and the boys were circulated and an Amber Alert missing child bulletin was in effect from Texas.
On Dec. 24, the crew of the Prince of Wales ferry told troopers that a woman and children matching the descriptions had boarded the Inter-Island Ferry Authority vessel in Hollis.
The woman gave false information about their identities but officers verified their names and Sullivan was charged with two counts of interference with child custody, a felony, and obstruction of a court order.
The two boys were placed in protective custody in Alaska, said Detective Shane Prewitt of the Forney Police Department in Forney, Texas, about 20 miles east of Dallas.
Texas media reports, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Clearinghouse Web site, identified the boys as Sullivan's children. Other reports said the relationship between the woman and boys was unclear.
Many things about Lelah Sullivan, including her real name, appear to be unclear, said Prewitt. After working the case for two months, Prewitt does not think that is her real name.
"As far as we know, we believe (the boys) to be her children," he said.
Sullivan apparently had been living in Alaska but left the state when social workers asked questions about her boys, Prewitt said. She has two adult sons living in Texas who cooperated with social workers and police, Prewitt said.
The older sons said they had been raised without knowing who their fathers were, without Social Security numbers, and without much, if any, schooling, Prewitt said.
That was the kind of neglect that was of interest to authorities regarding the younger boys, Prewitt said.
Texas Child Protective Services took the two boys from Sullivan and placed them in a foster home in Forney, Prewitt said. However, the boys wanted to be with their mother. They contacted her and the trio made a plan, he said.
About two weeks after entering the foster home, on the night of Nov. 8 or early hours of Nov. 9, the boys disappeared, Prewitt said. They had gone to bed at about 9 p.m. and were missing at 6 a.m.
Sullivan had been driving a motor home with Alaska license plates, said Prewitt. That vehicle was found nearby but Prewitt learned that Sullivan had continued driving in a rented Jeep, which was found in December in Whatcom County, Wash.
Sullivan was arraigned Tuesday before Craig District Court Magistrate Kay Clark. Clark appointed the Public Defender Agency to represent Sullivan and ordered that she not have contact with the two boys.