The two children at the centre of Monday’s Amber Alert issued in Saskatchewan remain safe with authorities in South Dakota, but more details are coming out about their journey, including how they, their mother and her common-law partner got across the border.
Their mother and her common-law partner, Benjamin Martin Moore, a convicted sex offender, were arrested in South Dakota on Tuesday at about 11:30 p.m. MT, according to Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin. Saskatchewan RCMP confirmed on Friday that both are still in police custody.
On Tuesday night, police in Saskatchewan extended the search for the girl, 7, and her brother, 8, into South Dakota following evidence that suggested the group had moved into the U.S. state.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) say the group crossed the border illegally into Montana by driving through a barbed wire fence near the Turner port of entry. The agency did not provide any details regarding time or date of border crossing in a news release.
Havre Sector CBP agents patrolling the international border detected a cut fence and informed the RCMP, according to the Thursday release.
“Havre Sector utilized a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Homeland Security Investigations Task Force to assist in locating the man,” the CBP said. “Moore was apprehended through multi-agency assistance and co-operation and is currently in custody pending prosecution.”
Campers alarmed to see children at rally campground
Officers found the group at the Glencoe Camp Resort in the city of Sturgis, S.D., more than 930 kilometres away from their home in Eastend, Sask., according to RCMP.
Merwin said police were fortunate to locate the fugitives because hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts are taking part in the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, many lodging in area campgrounds.
“We all started checking locations where people were staying and checking the campgrounds, and fortunate enough to find one of the campgrounds where they were staying,” he said.
Campers say Moore, 50, had identified himself as security at the resort.
“The guy was wearing a security shirt that all the other people who worked the campground security were wearing — exact same attire,” William Dukes from Scottsdale, Ariz. told CBC.
The resort posted on social media that its security team had assisted in locating and apprehending Moore, but did not respond to a CBC request for comment.
Brian Lester says he and his wife were surprised to see children on Sunday because they thought it was an adults-only campground.
“I was kind of appalled,” Lester told The Canadian Press from Sioux Falls, S.D. “I was shocked that a parent would think it’s OK to bring a kid to the rally, especially this campground,” which is affiliated with the motorcycle rally.
Dukes told CP the rally in Sturgis attracts bikers from across the United States and Canada for 10 days of parties and motorcycle rides.
The group didn’t have a tent and were sleeping in their car, according to Lester. He reported their presence to campground authorities and was told there were no age restrictions.
Lester said he also brought up the issue with a security guard in the campground later Sunday. That’s when a man, whom Lester said he later recognized as Moore, came up and told him that he was with the children.
“He says, ‘We’re down from Canada. I’m working security the week of the rally,'” Lester told CP.
The children didn’t seem distraught, Lester said, and he saw no abuse taking place.
Lester said he and his wife learned of the Amber Alert Wednesday morning and their hearts sank when they recognized the children and Moore. They immediately called authorities and were told the children had been found.
“We were relieved but we still had a pit in our stomach that we didn’t follow through more — didn’t follow our gut,” he said.
Dukes was pulling up to the campground when he saw police were not letting anybody in or out. He had learned of the Amber Alert while out eating, but says he had no idea what was going on until he returned to the campground.
“We actually saw the mother being pulled out of the back of the sheriff’s vehicle first,” Dukes told CBC. “She had handcuffs on. And then they were actually putting more shackles and chains on her.”
He said officers then pulled Moore from another sheriff’s vehicle and handcuffed and shackled him as well, but he says he never saw the children.
“It was a pretty crazy thing to see something like that,” he said. “I’ve never seen nothing like this before.”
Merwin said earlier this week that the fugitives tried to leave in their van, but they were stopped and arrested without incident.
Moore, mother still in custody
RCMP have said Moore was being investigated by social services when he left with the children and their mother before police were able to question him. Officers went to their home in Eastend, Sask., about 315 kilometres southwest of Regina, but found it abandoned.
That’s when Saskatchewan RCMP issued a warrant for Moore’s arrest, charging him with failing to report information to a registration centre within a week after a change of residence as required under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.
Later that day, the Amber Alert was extended into South Dakota.
RCMP say they are working with U.S. authorities to co-ordinate Moore’s return to Canada, but no date has been confirmed. No additional charges have been laid but the investigation is continuing, Mounties said.
The mother has not been charged in Canada, RCMP added.