SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - As day two of the combined trial for the mother and daughter duo charged with kidnapping a now 8-year-old boy from Houston when he was eight months old got under way Tuesday morning, the jury heard testimony that Krystle Tanner never admitted to kidnapping the boy.
According to authorities, Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, have been on the run from law enforcement since they kidnapped the child, Miguel Morin eight years ago. For eight years, Tanner allegedly hid Miguel Morin in homes all over central and east Texas without letting him go to school or go by his birth name.
San Augustine County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Tanner in August 2011 following reports of negligent supervision of children and abuse that centered on Tanner. During the investigation, one of the SACSO deputies realized that one of Tanner's children was Miguel.
Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution called Lindsey Van Buskirk, the investigative director for Austin's Child Protective Services, to the stand. Van Buskirk testified that in March 2011, CPS received a report that a five-year-old boy was living with Walker at her residence in Manor, Texas, right outside of Austin.
Van Buskirk said the report stated the boy had been sold to Walker in Houston, and since then, she had fled with the child. The report also said he currently had the flu and wasn't receiving medical attention. Van Buskirk said they had to close the case because everyone at the Walker residence denied there was a five-year-old boy living at the house.
Andy Wells, an employee of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, was called to the stand. Wells said he received a report that an unknown child was living with Tanner and was being hit. Wells said they investigated the abuse in August to December 2012 and discovered there was an unknown child in the Tanner residence. Wells said he asked Tanner about the child. On the stand, he said she told him the child was her brother, and then once they asked him if he was Miquel Morin, Tanner changed her account to say he was a child of a friend she was babysitting.
Gary Cunningham, the chief deputy of the San Augustine Sheriff's Office again took the stand Tuesday morning, continuing where he left off Monday afternoon. Cunningham revealed he had interviewed Tanner four or five times after his initial interview with her.
He said Tanner continued to deny the baby in her care was the missing child, Miguel Morin, and insisted he was actually the child of a friend of hers named Kristi, who lives in Center. During Monday's court proceedings, Cunningham testified that after exhaustive efforts, he never found Tanner's friend or her child in Center.
Recounting an interview he conducted with Tanner on March 26, 2012, Cunningham said, "[Tanner] expressed to me that her mother, Gloria Walker, had instructed her to make up a name for Morin and explained to her if she used his correct name, his real name, she would be in trouble."
During the interview, Tanner did come clean about lying to Houston Child Protective Services about Morin because her mother told her to, Cunningham said. He added that even though she also admitted to lying about Miquel's identity because she was afraid she would get in trouble, she never conceded to kidnapping the boy.
Cunningham said he spoke to Tanner's father, Willie Tanner, on March 19, 2012 and learned that Tanner had told her father that Miguel was actually her mother's adoptive son, but she liked to call Morin her son as a term of endearment. Willie Tanner said Krystle had resided with him for six or seven years, and that his ex-wife, Walker, had brought a 6-year-old boy to his home in San Augustine County in the spring of 2011.
Willie Tanner told Cunningham that Walker told him the boy was her son, and that his name was Jaquan. Willie Tanner told Cunningham he had known a report had been filed by the Houston Police Department about his daughter and a missing child in February 2005, but he did not know law enforcement was still trying to identify the missing child. He never contacted authorities because he had no idea his daughter was being investigated for kidnapping, Cunningham said.
Cunningham referred to a CPS report where Mariah Tanner, identified as a grandchild living in the Tanner home, told CPS that the child named Jaquan was Walker's son, and she was told the child's father was a man named Eric.
Gloria Walker's attorney Rudy Velasquez, grilled Cunningham about discrepancies in testimony the child's biological mother, Auboni Morin, gave to CPS and the HPD. There are three different dates in November where Auboni Morin says her son was missing. Those dates were November 10th, 16th, and 19th of 2004. Cunningham admitted he was surprised by the discrepancies in the reports and confirmed that there had been gaps in Auboni Morin's story based off of what he read in the original report filed by CPS.
However, Cunningham said he isn't sure if Auboni Morin gave inaccurate information on purpose. He also said he didn't know if she was intentionally being uncooperative with law enforcement.
Cunningham confirmed that the Morin's didn't have custody of their other children and that a Juanita Aguilarrd had custody of those children. He did not identify Aguilarrd's relationship to the Morin family. Cunningham addressed reports filed by HPD that this case was a civil matter, but added he does not consider this a custody matter and considers this a kidnapping case because there is significant evidence that shows that this was a kidnapping.
Cunningham says that he feels HPD lost focus investigating this case and overlooked discrepancies and gaps from both sides in this case.
Cunningham said that Miguel Morin had lived with Tanner for several months in San Augustine but had lived with Walker at her residence in Travis County near Austin for some time. When Velasquez asked Cunningham why Walker was being indicted for kidnapping in San Augustine when she lives in Travis County, the chief deputy said he could not answer because he did not prepare the documentation.
The defense asked Cunningham what his specific evidence is to say this is a kidnapping case. Cunningham says he has statements from others to show Walker was the one who kidnapped Miguel Morin and that Tanner had participated. But he says he has no proof to show Miguel Morin was abused by Walker or Tanner.
On Monday, the The prosecution in the case said Miguel's mother had told the Houston Police Department that she had left her baby with Tanner, who lived in the same apartment complex and was a good friend. When she went to go pick up her baby, Walker told her that Tanner had taken the baby and was gone.