Birth mother suspected of taking child
Dyresha Williams went to school on Wednesday and never came home.
The 9-year-old girl allegedly was abducted by her mother, Edwina Lee, whom she has not seen in three years.
The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office issued a warrant for Lee’s arrest Thursday night, and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, the FBI, and several other law enforcement agencies have launched a massive search for the child.
Dyresha’s mother reportedly took the girl out of Mrs. Lease’s third-grade class at Al Tahoe Elementary just after lunch and left her coat and backpack behind.
Dyresha is 4 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 70 pounds. She was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt with three hearts across the chest and has black shoulder-length hair.
“She has dimples that would melt your heart,” Sgt. Les Scott said. “She is just darling and we want to get her back really bad.”
School officials thought Lee had a right to see Dyresha, but her father Damon Williams is outraged they allowed this to happen.
“We are very concerned about this incident,” said Rich Alexander, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District superintendent. “We are sure everyone followed district policies and procedures, but even when that happens you can’t guarantee something like this won’t happen.”
Lee was listed as an emergency contact person and allowed to see Dyresha, according to Alexander.
The father disagreed.
“I made it clear to them in case anything happened that she was not allowed to pick Dyresha up,” he said.
“The teacher let her talk to Dyresha and she just disappeared,” said Emma Troutt, William’s fiancee.
Legally, Lee does have the right to see her daughter, but when a parent takes a child he or she has to notify the other parent and Lee has failed to do so, according to Detective Donna Kingman of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
Kingman did not know if the school should have prevented Lee from seeing Dyresha.
Williams has never attempted to gain sole custody of his daughter.
“I have taken care of Dyresha all of her life and her mother has never done anything,” he said.
While Williams was talking to police Wednesday night, Lee had Dyresha make a collect call home. Troutt, who has been a mother to Dyresha for the last seven years, answered the phone and said the little girl sounded scared and did not know where she was. Authorities think Lee might have taken the child to the Reno area or to Oakland or Stockton.
“Of course she was scared, she doesn’t know this woman,” Williams said. “We are just glad that she seemed safe.”
“From what I understand the mother is in good mental health and is not a danger to her daughter,” Kingman said. “Hopefully, she will realize the seriousness of the situation and do the right thing.”
Kingman speculated that Lee might have kidnapped Dyresha in order to establish a relationship with her daughter.
“She has had many years to get to know Dyresha but she chose not to,” Williams said.
Williams speculated that Lee took their daughter out of vindictiveness and anger over the fact that he does not want to pursue a relationship with her.
“We never told her she couldn’t see Dyresha,” he said. “But every time if I wasn’t coming she didn’t want to see her. She has never sent Dyresha any birthday cards or anything – she told me she forgot when her daughter’s birthday was.”
Williams is frightened that Lee will not provide a good home for Dyresha, whom she has only met a handful of times.
“The school district is cooperating completely with the South Lake Tahoe Police,” Superintendent Alexander said. “As far as the school was concerned, there was no reason why this woman could not see her daughter.”
Separated parents should have specific custody orders to prevent similar crimes from happening and to help police investigate abductions, Kingman said. Nationwide, more than 2,000 children were kidnapped each day in 1999, most of them by people they knew, and Kingman said parental abductions are a huge problem in California.
A distraught Troutt hoped Lee will bring Dyresha back safely.