Federal and local police recently helped reunite two missing Florida toddlers with their family after their babysitter allegedly kidnapped them and abandoned them more than 1,000 miles away at a park in Wisconsin.
According to officials, babysitter Adalyn Jean Burkett, 18, and her boyfriend, Marquan Edwards, 22, were apprehended and arrested on June 26 following an intense search and rescue operation led by the U.S. Marshals.
The children’s mother first reported them missing to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Florida on June 24.
It was revealed that Burkett, who was a trusted family friend and was babysitting the children on the night June 23, had taken them and the mother’s car on a cross-country trip from Panama City, Florida, to Milwaukee overnight.
Less than 48 hours later, law enforcement located the Burkett and Edwards in Milwaukee after they allegedly abandoned the children in a public park in an apparent attempt to distance themselves from the ongoing investigation.
The children, 2-year-old DeKarsen Middleton and 1-year-old Delyla Middleton, were found unharmed at the park by Milwaukee police, who promptly took them into their care.
The children’s grandmother, Tina Leach, said the family was determined to locate the toddlers as soon as possible. “We drove 17 hours to get here. We would have walked if we had to,” she said.
Authorities swiftly issued a missing child alert, and with the help of U.S. Marshals, Burkett and Edwards were apprehended the following day.
The details surrounding Burkett’s motive for the abduction remain unclear. The children’s mother had considered her a trusted friend, and the betrayal has left the family in disbelief.
“It just shows you who you can’t trust,” Leach told local ABC affiliate WISN 12.
Further investigation into Burkett’s past revealed that she was previously reported as a missing runaway in Milwaukee when she was 15 years old in 2020. Authorities considered her to be endangered at the time and had been actively searching for her.
Burkett’s recent whereabouts had not been known since November 2021, but a news report from March 2022 suggested she might have been in Florida.
It remains to be seen how the legal proceedings will unfold as Milwaukee police refer charges to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
Wisconsin law enforcement has made missing children a priority issue in recent years, starting an initiative to distribute and collect child identification kits from parents last year.