COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – An Amber Alert that stretched across state lines ended Thursday night with a kidnapping suspect in custody and the missing 5-month-old twin brother found alive.
Police confirmed early Thursday night to NBC4’s sister stations, WXIN/WTTV, that they located Kason Thomas, kidnapped Monday inside his mother’s running car, in Indianapolis hours after taking Nalah Jackson into custody. Columbus police also confirmed to NBC4 that Kason was found.
Indianapolis police told WXIN/WTTV that the missing car had been parked in a Papa John’s parking lot for around two days with Kason inside. Officers were eating at a nearby restaurant Thursday evening when a woman ran in to tell them there was a baby in the car.
Kason appeared healthy, police in Indianapolis said. Photos from the scene in Indianapolis show the missing Honda in a Papa John’s parking lot.
Jackson was the suspect in the Amber Alert after Kason and his twin, Ky’air, were taken from a Donatos pizza store in the Short North. Ky’air was found hours later between Columbus and Indianapolis, abandoned in a parking lot 70 miles away at the Dayton Internation Airport.
Outside of a Lowe’s in Whitehall Thursday evening, originally preparing for the next steps in their search, the twins’ family erupted into cheers as they heard Kason had also been found.
The news came after a harrowing few days for the family, who had traveled across the state searching for the missing twin. His grandmother, LaFonda Thomas, told NBC4 that as hours bore on and the temperature began to fall, it was increasingly difficult for the family to remain optimistic.
However, Thursday’s news was the perfect gift ahead of Christmas for the grandmother.
“This means everything,” LaFonda said. “My grandsons get to open up their presents simultaneously — not one alone wishing that the other was there. I’m so happy, I’m so grateful.”
She said within minutes, her son — Kason and Ky’air’s father — was in a car, determined to get to Indianapolis to retrieve his son.
“My son, oh — the cheer, the happiness in his voice that he knows that his son is safe, healthy, and he’s gonna go get him,” LaFonda said. “And that’s gonna make our Christmas the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my 44 years of life.”
Investigators had been searching for Jackson, a 24-year-old homeless woman, since Monday when they named her as the suspect in the disappearance of the twins. Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Smith Weir said they received several tip line calls Thursday morning from people saying they had spotted Jackson. The callers then got ahold of police in Indianapolis who eventually found her on Interstate 65, north of the city’s downtown area.
Kason’s discovery came after a 5 p.m. news conference in which Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said investigators had located Jackson in Indianapolis, but had yet to find Kason or the stolen black Honda Accord, last spotted in the Dayton area. She said the FBI had offered a $10,000 reward for information locating Kason.
Columbus police previously filed two charges of kidnapping against Jackson. Alongside the charges from Ohio, retired FBI agent Harry Trombitas gave NBC4 possibilities on what federal charges could pile on. The FBI or other federal agencies could file a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, Trombitas said, which would stiffen penalties against Jackson.
Jackson also had a list of criminal cases involving the custody of her own children that saw her in and out of jail within the last four years. Her ability to bond out of jail as she awaits trial also becomes severely limited in a federal case, according to Trombitas.
“If she crosses state lines and if the FBI files federal charges on her for kidnapping, it’s gonna be a lot tougher for her to get out,” Trombitas said. “We don’t really have some of the same restrictions that some of the state and county judges are facing.”
LaFonda Thomas told NBC4 earlier Thursday that all she felt after Columbus police’s update was anger and frustration. She also addressed Jackson directly, referencing the suspect’s own legal issues over the custody of her own children.
“I just want my grandson … Is he even coming back?” LaFonda said through tears. “You know how it feels not to have your own. Why would you deny another mother that opportunity to love and raise her own child?”
But after Kason had been found, LaFonda could only express immense joy that both of her grandsons were alive and safe — and look forward to the moment she can reunite with Kason.
“I can’t wait to hold my fat daddy,” LaFonda said, ushering in a wave of laughter from the family around her. “I can’t wait to see how he looks at me with his little look. But it’s gonna be just a very good reunion. I’m gonna hug him and hold him so tight and just make sure we never have to go through this ever again.”