Piper Johnson, age 7, was reportedly abducted during a visit with her mother, Valerie Baker, (shown on right) during a visit in St. Charles, Mo., date of photos not specified | Photos courtesy of the St. Charles County Police Department, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — A woman accused of illegally taking her 7-year-old daughter from another state was arrested Wednesday at a St. George hotel.
On Wednesday, 35-year-old Valerie Jean Baker, of Lake St. Louis, Missouri, was arrested shortly after 10 am on a $25,000 warrant issued out of the Lake Charles County Police Department in Missouri.
St Charles County Police Capt. David Tiefenbrunn told St. George News that Baker reportedly took her 7-year-old daughter, Piper Johnson, during a supervised visit in St. Charles, Missouri, on Monday by forcing the child into a blue 2018 Toyota Corolla before heading north on state Route Z at a high rate of speed.
In addition to the 7-year-old girl, Baker also has a 9-year-old son, Tiefenbrunn said, and she was on a supervised visit with both children after the youngsters were removed from Baker’s custody in November.
The two children were then placed in the legal custody of the Department of Social Services Children’s Division, he said, and were being cared for by the children’s maternal grandparents who had physical custody.
Tiefenbrunn also said Baker attempted to take her 9-year-old son as well, but the child broke free of his mother’s grasp and then ran to the safety of his grandmother, while Baker took physical control of the younger child and forced her into the car.
On Tuesday, Tiefenbrunn said, a license plate reader in Colorado captured the suspect’s license plate near Denver, and authorities had reason to believe the suspect was heading into Utah. Later that same day, a warrant for Baker’s judgment was issued by the St. Charles County Attorney’s Office, which includes two fourth-degree felony charges: interference with custody and an assault charge for reportedly assaulting a social worker while attempting to flee with the child .
“The suspect has no ties to Utah that we have found at this point,” he said, “But she does have family in California that she hasn’t been in touch with for years, so she may have been headed there.”
One day later, officers in St. George received information relaying that a suspect with a Missouri warrant was staying at a hotel near Dixie Convention Center. Shortly after 11:30 am, multiple units responded to a staging area just west of the hotel, according to the probable cause statement filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
Both plain-clothed and uniformed officers went to the third floor of the hotel, where one of the agents reported hearing a child’s voice coming from the room the suspect was reportedly staying in.
Minutes later, the report states, officers received word the suspect was leaving the room, which is when they saw Baker heading down the hall with a small child walking within approximately 3 feet of her.
Two officers approached the pair. One grabbed the suspect and advised she was under arrest, the report states, while the other officer took the child and quickly steered her into a nearby elevator.
As officers were handcuffing Baker, she attempted to push away the officer and continued to scream at the officers “stating they were going to die,” the report states, adding that she then turned to one of the officers and spit in her face multiple times while screaming at her.
It took multiple officers to physically restrain the suspect. Baker was then loaded into a patrol car and first transported to St. George Regional Medical Center before being booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on the warrant. The child was safely removed from the situation, according to the report.
On Thursday, the suspect was formally charged with interfering with an arrest and propelling a bodily substance, both misdemeanors. She is being held on the Missouri warrant as authorities in both states work to confirm the warrant and arrange for the safe return of the child.
Tiefenbrunn said while the suspect’s actions in the Missouri case did not support a more serious charge, such as kidnapping, there may be additional charges as the investigation in St. Charles continues.
The St. George Police Department coordinated the arrest and recovery of the child. Agents with Adult Probation and Parole were also involved in the operation.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.