TAMPA — The 1-month-old infant reported missing Monday was found hours later about 300 miles north in Quincy, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Sage Cooper was reported to be unharmed, officials said, and Gadsden County sheriff’s deputies took father David Cooper, 32, into custody on outstanding arrest warrants. The child’s mother, Kaitlynn Lovel, 25, could also face charges.
The search started earlier Monday when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert for Sage, the newborn son of an Illinois couple who fled to Tampa after losing custody of two other children.
The baby was born March 16 and last seen Friday at a home on Oak Pride Court in Tampa, where he lived with Lovel.
Investigators believe the father and mother absconded with the infant after learning that a Hillsborough County judge signed a court order on April 21 for Hillsborough Child Protection Investigators to immediately place the baby into state custody, said sheriff’s spokesman Danny Alvarez.
Hillsborough deputies started searching for the family last week after a call from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Alvarez said. Deputies learned the couple came to Tampa during Lovel’s pregnancy after child welfare workers in Illinois removed two other children from their custody.
Both Lovel and Cooper faced "significant charges of child abuse" in Illinois that led to the termination of their parental rights over two children, Alvarez said. An Illinois court placed the couple under strict orders prohibiting interactions with their children or each other, Alvarez said.
Cooper is also wanted in Illinois on multiple unrelated charges, the Sheriff’s Office said. Illinois authorities said they have two active warrants for Cooper’s arrest, one on a narcotics-related charge and the other on a charge of failure to appear in court for an ongoing domestic violence case.
Before the child was found and the father arrested, the Hillsborough sheriff’s spokesman explained the importance of finding them:
"It’s important we find these people because of their past history and age of child," he said. "We don’t know what could be in this child’s medical history that puts him in danger, or what kind of conditions he’s living in now."
Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.