COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – An Amber Alert that spanned state lines ended Thursday night with a kidnapping suspect in custody and missing 5-month-old twin brothers found alive.
Early Thursday night, police confirmed to NBC4 affiliate WXIN/WTTV that they found Cason Thomas, who was kidnapped Monday from his mother’s car in Indianapolis, hours after Nala Jackson was arrested. Columbus police also confirmed to NBC4 that Cason has been found.
Indianapolis police told WXIN/WTTV that the missing car had been parked in the Papa John’s parking lot for about two days with Cason inside. Officers were eating at a nearby restaurant Thursday night when a woman ran in to tell them there was a child in the car.
Indianapolis police said Cason appeared to be healthy. Photos from the scene in Indianapolis show the missing Honda in the parking lot of Papa John’s.
Jackson was the suspect in an Amber Alert after Cason and his twin, Cairo, were taken from Donatos Pizzeria in the Short North. Kayer was found hours later between Columbus and Indianapolis, abandoned in a parking lot 70 miles from Dayton International Airport.
At Lowe’s in Whitehall on Thursday night, initially preparing for the next steps in the search, the twins’ family erupted in cheers when they heard Cason had also been found.
The news comes after a harrowing few days for the family, who traveled across the state in search of the missing twin. His grandmother, LaFonda Thomas, told NBC4 that as the hours wore on and the temperature began to drop, it was getting harder for the family to stay upbeat.
However, Thursday’s news made the perfect Christmas Eve gift for grandma.
“It means everything,” LaFonda said. “My grandchildren open their presents at the same time – not one wants the other to be around. I’m so happy, I’m so grateful.”
She said a few minutes later, her son – Cason and Kyir’s father – was in the car and decided to drive to Indianapolis to pick up her son.
“My son, oh, hello, the happiness in his voice that he knows his son is safe, he’s safe and he’s going to pick him up,” LaFonda said. “And it will make our Christmas the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my 44 years of life.”
Investigators have been searching for Jackson, a 24-year-old homeless woman, since Monday when they named her a suspect in the disappearance of the twins. Columbus Police Department Deputy Chief Smith Weir said they received several calls to the hotline Thursday morning from people who said they had spotted Jackson. The callers then contacted police in Indianapolis, who eventually located her on Interstate 65, just north of downtown.
Cason’s discovery followed a 5 p.m. news conference in which Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said investigators had located Jackson in Indianapolis but had not yet found Cason or the stolen black Honda Accord, the latter spotted in the Dayton area. She said the FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Cason’s location.
Columbus police previously charged Jackson with two counts of kidnapping. Along with the Ohio charges, retired FBI agent Harry Trombitas gave NBC4 an inside scoop on what the federal charges could add up to. Trombitas said the FBI or other federal agencies could file charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, which would result in enhanced penalties against Jackson.
Jackson had too a list of criminal cases related to the custody of one’s own children who have seen her in and out of jail for the past four years. Her ability to get out of jail while she awaits trial is also severely limited in the federal case, Trombitas said.
“If she crosses state lines and if the FBI brings federal kidnapping charges against her, it’s going to be a lot harder for her to get out,” Trombitas said. “We really don’t have the limitations that some state and district judges face.”
LaFonda Thomas told NBC4 earlier Thursday that all she felt after the Columbus police update was anger and frustration. She also addressed Jackson directly, citing the suspect’s legal issues regarding the custody of his own children.
“I just want my grandson… Will he even come back?” Lafonda said through tears. “You know what it’s like not to have your own. Why would you deny another mother the opportunity to love and raise her own child?”
But after Cason was found, LaFonda could only express her immense joy that both of her grandchildren were alive and safe — and looked forward to the moment when she could be reunited with Cason.
“I can’t wait to hug my fat daddy,” LaFonda said, prompting a wave of laughter from the family around her. “I can’t wait to see him give me his little look. But it will be a very good meeting. I’m going to hug him and hold him so tight and just make sure we never have to go through this ever again.”