SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - During day four of the ongoing kidnapping trail against Krystle Tanner and Gloria Tanner, an officer with the Houston Police Department's Special Crimes Division-Sex Crimes Unit said that, based on the facts as she knew them, she thought the case wasn't a kidnapping; it was a matter of interference with child custody.
According to authorities, Tanner and her mother, Walker, have been on the run from law enforcement since they kidnapped the child, Miguel Morin, while babysitting him overnight. For eight years, Tanner allegedly hid Miguel Morin in homes all over Central and East Texas calling him by the name "Jaquan" and allowing him to believe he was younger than he actually was. They also kept him from going to school.
San Augustine County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Tanner in August 2011 following reports of negligent supervision of children and abuse after Child Protective Services followed a claim that Tanner's husband, Timothy James Taylor, was allowing his newborn son to smoke marijuana. This is when CPS discovered a bi-racial boy living with the family.
During the investigation, one of the SACSO deputies realized one of Tanner's children was the missing child Miguel.
Jennifer Kauffelt, an officer with the HPD's Special Crimes Division-Sex Crimes Unit, said Thursday that she took over the case after an Officer Coleman retired from the force and transferred the case. Kauffelt said she has been a police officer for 18 years and worked in the juvenile division for 9 years.
Kauffelt testified that she sent a certified letter to Auboni Morin. She said this is standard procedure when they can't reach someone in person or over the phone. She said she did receive a receipt from Morin saying they had received the letter. Kauffelt visited Morin at her apartment, and Morin said she had never read the letter, even though she had received it. She testified that Morin was very uncooperative and left a voicemail several weeks later, saying she wanted a different officer assigned to the case.
Kauffelt testified she spoke to Walker and was told she had not spoken to Tanner in over two years. Walker said Auboni Morin had sold her baby, Miguel, to Tanner for $200 when he was only two months old. She said Auboni Morin wanted to make a career out of being a surrogate and give babies away to people who could not have children for various reasons.
Kauffelt said she got in touch with Juanita Aguillard, the godmother of the Morin children, who told her she was planning on formally adopting the four Morin children at the time. Kauffelt said Aguillard already had several children of her own and was very cooperative. Aguillard told Kauffelt that Auboni Morin had given Miguel to Tanner saying "Ms. Morin never asked for money. She just gave (the babies) away."
Defense attorney Rudy Velasquez asked Kauffelt if she felt Auboni Morin had been truthful in her statements.
"I have an overwhelming feeling that no one has been truthful in this case," Kauffelt said.
Kauffelt said she was instructed by a district attorney to close the case on April 6, 2006, despite earlier testimony in the trial stating the HPD investigation was closed in February 2005. The Houston Police Department had to close the case because they were receiving conflicting statements, and there was a lack of cooperation from the Morins. Kauffelt said the case was no longer going to be considered a criminal case and was now considered a civil matter at that time period.
Prosecutor J. Kevin Dutton told Kauffelt that the SACSO investigators able to identify Miguel in only three days. He asked Kauffelt if she would've contacted the San Augustine County Sheriff's Office if this case had happened today. Kauffelt replied she did the very best she could with the experience she had.
"I'm the low man on a very high totem pole. I did what I was told," Kauffelt said.
Dutton asked Kauffelt if she felt like this was a kidnapping case, given the facts. Kauffelt said she does not agree this is a kidnapping case and still believes it is a interference with child custody case because she thinks the Morin's and Tanner's had an agreement about who would have custody of Miguel.
Kauffelt said she found it odd that the Morins had not contacted the police department at all between the months of March 2005 to June 2006. She did admit that sometime between December 2004 and June 2006 the case file went missing.
Earlier Thursday morning, Sgt. Michael K. Peters, a sergeant with the Houston Police Department with 31 years of experience, told jurors in a San Augustine County district court that he initially investigated the kidnapping case in 2004. He testified that Auboni Morin, the biological mother of Miguel, came into his office and reported a kidnapped child on Nov. 16, 2004.
Peters testified he interviewed Miguel's father, Fernando Morin, at the apartment complex in Houston, and that Fernando Morin's behavior was inappropriate. He said Fernando Morin had just returned home from Florida where he was working a job for several weeks and had recently learned his newborn son was missing. Peters said Fernando did not show any concern his child was missing. He said the circumstances of the alleged kidnapping were confusing and he was under the impression Miguel had been staying with Tanner and Walker for an extended period of time.
Peters told the defense he has never seen a case like this since his first day on the force in 1981. Dutton asked Peters if he had been concerned with the case when two weeks passed and Tanner and the baby had not returned home. Peters said he did think at the time that this was probably an abduction. Dutton asked Peters what he would have done if this had been his son. He answered saying he would've used every resource he could to find the child.
The defense countered by saying "You are not the father of this child. In your report, the child's father did not seem upset. Did that not give you reason to believe this is a matter between families and not an abduction?" Peters said Fernando Morin's reaction was strange, so he transferred the case to the juvenile division because he felt they could handle the case more efficiently.