U.S. marshals are helping authorities in Northern Virginia in the search for four missing children.
The children’s mother abducted them in June, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department said.
In June, 34-year-old Melody Bannister accused her father in law and then her husband of abusing her three daughters — ages 13, 12 and 11 — and her 7-year-old son, but the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department and Child Protective Services found the allegations to be unfounded.
News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.
After the investigation, she took her children on a planned vacation but never returned.
“She threatened me before she left and said if you don’t side with the children, then you’re gonna burn with your dad,” said her husband, Bill Bannister.
He petitioned for custody of the children in July and was granted it.
His wife petitioned for custody in Alabama, and the courts there ordered the children be returned to their father, but she left the state.
Authorities say she’s been spotted from Colorado to Texas to the Carolinas. They believe she is updating her activity with the kids on a blog, writing it wasn’t safe to return because the alleged abusers were not in jail.
“You don’t hear the pitter patter of little feet in the house anymore,” Bill Bannister said. “Nobody’s singing; nobody’s laughing. It’s dark. It’s quiet. It’s lonely.”
Melody Bannister is facing multiple misdemeanors and a felony for not complying with the court order to bring the kids home.
Her attorney told News4 he is preparing a statement.