SAN AUGUSTINE, Texas (AP) — Krystle Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, for years had successfully concealed the true identity of the boy that authorities say they kidnapped from Houston in 2004 when he was just 8 months old.
They hid him in homes in Central and East Texas, kept him out of school and didn't call him by his given name of Miguel Morin, instead renaming him Jaquan. The boy, knowing nothing of who he really was, called Tanner mother and Walker grandmother.
And their secret might never have been discovered if Tanner's newborn son in April 2010 had not tested positive for marijuana. That prompted an investigation by child welfare officials, who were told by Tanner she had another child.
However, attempts to find that other child, who turned out to be Miguel, would go on for nearly two more years as authorities say Tanner and Walker thwarted their efforts through elaborate lies and by secretly shuttling Miguel between homes.
Tanner, 27, and Walker, 50, who each face charges of kidnapping and injury to a child, pleaded not guilty Friday during their first court appearances since being indicted last month.
During the brief court hearing in San Augustine, the women were appointed attorneys, who didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Tanner and Walker each remained in jail on $250,000 bond. Prosecutors said they hope to try the case sometime in August.
Miguel, now 8 years old, is in foster care as a Houston judge waits to hear next month from therapists on when the boy can be reunited with his parents, who are seeking custody despite allowing their four other children to live with another couple.
Investigators believe that in 2004, Tanner, then 19, wanted a child of her own "very badly," said San Augustine County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Gary Cunningham. She lived in the same Houston apartment complex as Miguel and his family, and often baby-sat him.
"Krystle Tanner saw an opportunity, as did her mother, to get this little baby," Cunningham said.
Authorities said that after being taken, Miguel apparently spent much of his time with Walker in a two-story home in Manor, located in the Austin metro area in Central Texas. He also lived with Tanner in a mobile home in San Augustine, a small town nestled in the East Texas woods, about 150 miles northeast of Houston.
During these years, Miguel didn't learn to read or write and never went to school. His long, dark hair, never having been cut, was braided. He was told his birthday was March 26 when it was actually March 1.
The first word of his possible location came in April 2010, when Child Protective Services in San Augustine County began investigating Tanner after marijuana was detected in her newborn son's bloodstream, according to Walker's arrest warrant affidavit. Tanner told CPS she also had a 6-year-old son who lived with her mother in Manor.