Daughter of kidnap suspect says mom is not a ‘monster’

Woman arrested in Atascadero case reportedly has 20-year history of mental illness

nwilson@thetribunenews.comAugust 8, 2011 

UPDATE: "I am a CIA agent," boy's alleged abductor tells judge »

The daughter of the woman suspected of abducting a 4-year-old boy from a homeless shelter in Atascadero said that her mother has a history of mental illness.

Sara Fowler, 30, of Sacramento told The Tribune on Monday in a telephone interview that her 52-year-old mother, Annette Hale, has battled serious mental illness for more than 20 years.

Fowler wants to dispel any notion that Hale is “a deranged monster” because of her suspected role in the kidnapping of Jeremy Guthrie from the El Camino Homeless Organization.

Police found Guthrie in a defunct Ford dealership about 12 hours after he was reported missing about 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Authorities arrested Hale shortly after the boy was discovered. She remains in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, where she is being held in lieu of $1 million bail on suspicion of kidnapping.

“Being her daughter, I can see how it happened,” Fowler said. “For many, many years she was law-abiding, Christian, she bought a house, but she has delusions and has needed help for a long time.”

Fowler — who said she doesn’t believe her mother belongs in prison — said that she has tried to help her, but Hale often sees her daughter as a threat, and their relationship has been difficult.

“She’s not high functioning,” Fowler said. “She’ll find housing, get evicted and then live on the streets. Once she’s homeless, she’s then not getting the help that she needs.”

Atascadero Police Department investigators believe Guthrie spent the bulk of the time he was missing at the former Ford dealership.

Sgt. Gregg Meyer said Hale might have used a ladder or discovered an unlocked door to enter the building on the corner of El Camino Real and San Anselmo Road.

“We’re still looking into how she gained access into that building,” Meyer said. “There were no broken windows, and all the doors were secure when we checked.”

Meyer said the boy was found alone in a locked, second-story office.

Guthrie was able to open the locked door from inside when police arrived, and he was unharmed.

Police believe he stayed there all day because a search of 66 law enforcement personnel and 100 volunteers likely would have found him if he’d been moved around in Atascadero, Meyer said. Hale did not have a car.

Meyer said Hale borrowed a cellphone from a stranger about 5 p.m. on Friday, reported Guthrie’s location to authorities and walked away. The owner of the phone then called police back and said the woman may be the person they were seeking.

Police saw Hale walking away from the dealership, Meyer said.

Hale and the boy’s mother, LaToya Logan, had an argument at the shelter in the hours before the boy went missing, police said.

Hale is expected to waive her right to an arraignment today in a video conference and appear Wednesday morning in San Luis Obispo Superior Court once formal charges are filed by the county District Attorney’s Office.

Guthrie talked to investigators about what happened, but police aren’t disclosing his comments pending further investigation.

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