Police say a witness kick-started a child abuse case - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Police say a witness kick-started a child abuse case


Being in the right place at the right time can make a huge difference. A Benton Harbor couple is in court Monday for child abuse charges after a witness helped kick start an investigation. The witness, Clare DeHann, says she did what she hopes anyone would do, picked up the phone and alerted police.

It was early August when DeHann stopped by Henry's Hamburgers in Benton Harbor to grab a bite. That's when she noticed a woman and two young children. "Very cute, they were dirty, they had no shoes on, they had dirty clothes on."

DeHann says she was heading to her vehicle when the woman approached her with a sexual proposition. When DeHann declined the woman had another question. "She goes 'Do you like children?'"

DeHann says she was disgusted by what she appeared to be offering and started yelling at the woman. That's when a van came around the corner and the three got in. "She scooped up the kids and threw them into the car and they were kicking and screaming and they drove away."

DeHann says she immediately called the police. "I was feeling very helpless."

Shortly after the incident at Henry's Hamburgers, the woman, Josephine Morrow and her boyfriend, Mathew Weidler were arrested and charged with child abuse. Police don't believe they were sincerely trying to sell the children, but DeHann's call was valuable.

"As a result, it lead us in the direction where we came in contact with the parent of the child and there were some issues, not necessarily what she initially thought," says Benton Charter Township Police Chief Vince Fetke.

He says DeHann's testimony isn't the basis of this case against Weidler and Morrow, but it did lead to an investigation and Morrow's children were turned over to Child Protective Services. Something DeHan was relieved to hear. "I was very happy, very happy."

And Chief Fetke says DeHann did exactly what he hopes the rest of the public would do. "Without the help of the citizens, many times we don't have the leads that assist us in solving crimes. "

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