On Dec. 22, 2017, Deidre Huff landed at the airport, returning home from a business trip in Seattle. She dialed her 16-year-old son, but there was no answer.
There wouldn't be an answer the second or third time she called, either. Her son was missing, kidnapped by his own father, Huff claims.
Before Huff told the story of how the Waxahachie Police Department diligently worked to find her son in California, she shared how this was not the first time his father was involved in his disappearance.
Huff’s ex-husband moved to California, limiting his visitation to once a year. In 2015, Huff escorted her son to California for a visit and, “In a month, I completely lost contact with my child.”
During her son’s visit, his father shamed his mother, exhibiting parental alienation. Her son put all communication to a halt and expressed that he didn’t want to return home. States away, Huff noticed her son’s social media take a turn for the worse.
During his stay, the father verbally and mentally abused him. The 16-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome, which only heightened his stress levels.
It took eight months working with the state to get her son back. But things weren’t the same when he returned home. He had to work through mental health issues and rebuild trust with his mother.
While Huff strengthened the roots of her family, her ex-husband was falling off the deep end, battling alcoholism, eventually getting evicted from his home and living in his car.
In the spring of 2017, Huff saw the first warning sign that her ex-husband was in Waxahachie. Staff from the apartment complex she lives in asked her, “Who is the man living with you?”
Huff was puzzled. Then staff disclosed that the man drove a blue truck registered in her name.
“That’s my ex-husband,” Huff gasped.
Huff often travels out of state, training others to use medical equipment. Anytime she would leave, her ex-husband would stay at the apartment while their son stayed at a family member’s house.
Huff did alert police, but it was too late by then.
Huff later on looked at her son’s phone records and noticed his father was contacting him about 15 times a day. But, she didn’t overthink it at the time.
When her business flight landed in Dec. 2017, Huff’s son did not answer her calls, and no one in her family seemed to know his location.
When she arrived home, only his laptop and a few pairs of clothes were missing. Huff pointed out that since her son has Asperger’s, he’s an extremely particular person. He won’t wear a coat due to the bulkiness, and it’s winter, so all he was wearing was a short sleeve shirt, a sleeveless hoodie, jeans and the only pair of shoes he owns.
Connecting the dots, she knew he had to be with his father; the feeling was too familiar. She questioned, “How is my son going to live out of a car?”
“I was flipping out,” Huff expressed. “My child is gone. He’s with this man where horrible things have happened to him that caused my child definite issues and lots of things to work through after that. I was devastated.”
She took immediate efforts to search for her son and called the Waxahachie Police. Even though she was apprehensive to explain the situation, “The police were very supportive, but they needed that documentation so they could know what to do.”
“They left Texas as soon as they could,” Huff said. “I don’t know if they even had a plan if I’m being honest. My son doesn’t talk about a lot of the details, but he talked to the Gingerbread House.”
The Gingerbread House is where children go for forensic interviews in Ellis County. Huff’s son spoke with the house’s team after he returned from California.
His father caught him at a vulnerable time, as he was already emotional from a breakup. Huff explained how his father “has control of his brain — he’s worked on his brain so that when he’s in his presence, he won’t talk to me because that would be disrespectful to his dad.”
Shortly after Christmas Day, the initial officer who took the report, Waxahachie Police officer Brent Dunn, deferred her to detective Elizabeth Glidewell.
The detective was able to reach the ex-husband over the phone and told him he had 48 hours to agree with Huff, or else there would be a warrant issued.
He did not comply. Instead, he called Huff, threatening to throw their phones out the window unless she called the police off. All she wanted to do was crawl through the phone and get her son back.
In fear of destroying the only point of communication, Huff notified Waxahachie Police again. Corporal Pete Borjas, who was already up to speed on her case, greeted Huff on the phone.
“I never felt like I had to explain it every time. It was reassuring to have that,” Huff relayed.
As she updated Borjas on the latest, he asked her to describe her ex-husband’s appearance. Borjas immediately recalled interacting with him on many occasions, as he would often park behind commercial buildings in town. Borjas went through his body camera footage to see if he’d caught the ex-husband’s license plate.
He found it.
As police tracked down the address the vehicle was registered under, they came to a dead end. In the meantime, Huff opened a case with Child Protective Services to attach a safety alert to the ex-husband’s Texas and California driver’s license.
Huff pointed out that her son was too old to have an Amber Alter pushed out since the cut off age is 13.
By this time it’s after the New Year: the police have the warrant issued, and the investigation is further in motion. Her son’s phone was being pinged every 10 minutes for the next 48 hours. Glidewell affirmed to Huff that her son would be found in the next two days.
The investigators were led to a trailer home in Rodeo, California at a neighboring house where the license plate was tracked. The father was taken into custody, and Huff was reunited with her son the same day.
“Now, my son is going to be safe because, for the next three years, he [ex-husband] cannot come back to Texas or else he’ll go straight to jail,” Huff asserted.
“[My son] has done great. Also, the school has stepped up with their counselors that are extremely helpful,” Huff continued.
For Huff, the reunification would not have been possible without the diligent work and department-wide work of the Waxahachie Police. In her eyes, the police were in the right spot at the right time.
The whole time, “I really felt like the entire department was in our corner.”
Supervisor of the Waxahachie Police Criminal Investigation Division, Lt. Todd Woodruff, confirmed Glidewell is working on the allegation of interference with child custody that was reported by Huff.
“Unfortunately, certain aspects of the case have yet to be resolved, but we hope to be able to file a case with the District Attorney soon,” Woodruff stated. “It is the department’s desire to bring this case to an appropriate and just resolution.”
Ashley Ford | Facebook | Twitter | 469-517-1450