Kidnapped Custer children rescued

Ron Burtz

Two children allegedly abducted Saturday from a Custer foster home by their non-custodial mother were finally rescued near Mitchell after a several hour chase that involved multiple law enforcement agencies and a South Dakota Highway Patrol airplane.
The mother, Katrina Seay of Rapid City, was taken into custody and charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping after leading officers on a 350-mile pursuit that involved three high-speed chases that were aborted over concerns for the safety of the children. The children were the subject of a statewide Amber Alert that sent out notifications to cell phones and media outlets across the state and prompted calls to Custer County Dispatch from as far away as Aberdeen.
Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley said the incident began shortly before noon Saturday when dispatch received a call from the foster mother of 9-year-old Zyriah Seay and her 5-year-old brother, Jeremiah, who had been placed there by the state of South Dakota.
The caller reported the children were playing a game outdoors at the home of a babysitter on the east side of Custer when they turned up missing. After a search of the neighborhood, the caller placed the 911 call, saying she believed the children had been taken by their mother.
Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Derrick Reifenrath, the ranking officer on duty at the time, took charge of the investigation and organized a door-to-door search of the surrounding area, checking with neighbors to see if anyone had security cameras that might have picked up the abduction. He also began a search for Seay’s phone number so police could locate her by that method. Custer County Search and Rescue was also paged to aid in the search and the state Department of Criminal Investigation was notified.
“Reifenrath did a great job,” said Mechaley, noting the deputy kept him updated by phone throughout the incident.
Through contact with Rapid City police—the location of Seay’s last known address—Reifenrath learned that officers had previously had contact with Seay in a green 2014 Chevrolet Cruze, prompting law enforcement to eventually list that vehicle in the Amber Alert.
Authorities traced Seay’s cell phone to a location in Rapid Valley, which led to Pennington County Sheriff’s deputies spotting the vehicle.
“When a deputy sheriff tried to stop it, they took off,” said Mechaley, adding that the high-speed pursuit was soon terminated as a precaution because of the children in the vehicle. Because of the pursuit and the belief the children were in danger, the criteria was met for issuing the Amber Alert which went out minutes later.
Mechaley also applauded the work of Custer County Communications, which became quite busy especially after the Amber Alert was issued early in the afternoon.
“Dispatch did a very good job,” said Mechaley. “They received several calls from people who thought they saw the vehicle or the children in various parts of the state.”  
Calls poured in from areas as far-flung as Hot Springs, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, among others.
Mechaley said a short time later a Box Elder police unit spotted the car and was following it, resulting in a second high- speed pursuit. It was quickly terminated as well. However, a dash cam in the patrol vehicle captured photos of the suspect vehicle which were used to help a Highway Patrol aircraft pilot pick up the trail in order to avoid another high-speed chase.
Some time later, a caller reported the car was seen traveling east on Hwy. 44 toward the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Oglala Sioux Tribal Police officers pulled in behind the Cruze and followed it to Badlands National Park.
“Multiple units from various jurisdictions followed Katrina’s car through Jackson County and on to Interstate 90 eastbound,” said Mechaley, adding that at some point the Highway Patrol aircraft located the vehicle and followed it as it made its way across the state.
At some point during the pursuit, KELO News in Sioux Falls reported to Sioux Falls police they had received a phone call from a person identifying herself as Seay.
“She mentioned she had the children and they were not in danger,” said Mechaley.  
Unbeknownst to Seay, Mechaley said authorities also had another way of keeping track of her.
“We actually had one of our deputies about four miles ahead of that vehicle,” said Mechaley, “but that deputy was transporting a person to [the State Human Services Center in] Yankton.”
Mechaley said the deputy had to exit the interstate at one point as the vehicles approached Mitchell to allow Seay to pass so she would not spot the patrol vehicle, resulting in another pursuit. However, after the Cruze pulled off I-90 at Mitchell a third pursuit began. That pursuit was quickly abandoned as well when speeds topped 100 mph and the car was allowed to continue under the watchful gaze of the Highway Patrol’s “eye in the sky.”
“The aircraft continued to follow the car as it took multiple turns through town and eventually headed north,” said Mechaley.
Just before 8 p.m. (MDT) the vehicle was observed pulling into a farm in rural Davidson County where Seay was taken into custody by officers from the Mitchell Police Department along with an adult male passenger and the two children who were unharmed.
After meeting up with Yankton County authorities who continued the transport of the mental patient, the Custer deputy returned to Mitchell where he and a fellow deputy took custody of Seay to transport her back to Pennington County Jail. Mechaley said when it was all over those two deputies had logged a 20-hour day.
Mechaley said the children were taken for medical evaluation in Mitchell and were determined to be unharmed.
Seay will face two charges of aggravated kidnapping in Custer County. At press time it was unknown whether charges would be filed against the man who was a passenger in her vehicle during the pursuit.


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