MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A 5-year-old Mount Vernon boy who was believed to be kidnapped by his foster parent was found in Vietnam with the woman and her mother.
The boy, identified as “ND,” arrived back in Seattle on Friday morning, accompanied by FBI agents and victims’ advocates. The boy reunited with his biological mother after he arrived.
"She said that he's doing good, that he was excited to see her," said Brittany Tri, the birth mother's attorney. "They're both excited, so the excitement goes both ways, but she did say that he's very tired."
Police say the boy’s foster parent, Amanda Dinges, 35, and her mother, Amber Dinges, 60, kidnapped the boy. Police said now that ND has been found, their focus will be the arrest and extradition of the two women, who are not in custody. Mount Vernon police believe they are in Vietnam, but say international recognition of warrants and extradition is “a complicated process.”
The attorney for the boy's birth mother said they had known authorities believed they had left the country, but only found out early this week that he was believed to be in Vietnam.
"She was really shocked to find out that it was that country," said Tri. "She was really, I think it was the first time she was really nervous that maybe they weren't going to be able to find him and bring him back."
Tri also said that, to her knowledge, the boy did not have a passport so she is not sure how he was able to get out of the country.
The search for the boy began Nov. 28 when Child Protective Services alerted Mount Vernon police that Dinges may have left with the boy.
Police discovered Amanda Dinges had disconnected her phones, vacated her last known address and fled the area.
CPS advised police that the child had not been in school since Nov. 21 and there was a notice of abandonment on the door of Dinges' apartment, according to probable cause documents.
Dinges previously met with the boy's biological mother and CPS workers on Nov. 15, where the agency recommended the boy’s biological mother have overnight visits for a few weeks starting on Nov. 25. The group planned a meeting in December to discuss expanding the visits.
The next day, Dinges told Sky Valley CPS that she needed to have her teenage foster child removed from her home before she started a new job across the state on Nov. 21. Police say Dinges told CPS workers that the 5-year-old had already been removed, which he had not.
CPS removed the teen from Dinges’ care on Nov. 18.
On Nov. 19, a neighbor told police she saw the Dingeses and the boy walking quickly and heard the women tell the boy they "were leaving here." The neighbor then asked Amber if they were moving and said her response was "awkward" and she tried to change the conversation quickly.
On Nov. 21, managers at Dinges’ apartment found the keys to her unit in the office, which they believed were returned over the weekend.
When the boy didn't show up to the scheduled visit with his biological mother on Nov. 25, she contacted her caseworker, according to Brittany Tri, the biological mother's lawyer. Due to the holiday weekend, the worker saw the message on Nov. 28, and CPS alerted police to concern about the child’s safety.
Through interviews and data collected in 25 search warrants, Mount Vernon police said they determined the boy and the Dingeses were in Thai Binh, Vietnam, which is about 70 miles southeast of Hanoi.
Diplomatic Service Security personnel took custody of the boy at the United States Consulate in Hanoi on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. The boy then flew to Tokyo where he was met by the FBI and advocates on Thursday.
Amanda Dinges was charged with second-degree kidnapping and a warrant was issued for her arrest on Nov. 29. Amber Dinges was charged with second-degree kidnapping Dec. 2.
Attorney Brittany Tri entered a court order to allow the boy to start living with his birth mother. Tri said the state had already started transitioning him to stay with her when he was allegedly kidnapped by the foster mom. CPS will keep the case open for six months and do check-ins on the boy and his mother.
"It doesn't make sense to put him in a different home that he doesn't know with strangers, to transition him back to his mother, who's already done everything she needs to do," said Tri.