A father kidnapped his young son from a St. Louis hospital with precious little of the medicine the boy requires for his failing heart, then called and sent text messages taunting his estranged wife about the abduction, authorities said Wednesday.
Five-year-old Porter Stone was found with his father and paternal grandmother around 3 a.m. Wednesday in Alsip, Ill., near Chicago. The child, who is on a heart transplant list, was OK despite the grave medical condition that requires intravenous medication. He taken to a hospital for observation.
"All indications are he was doing well," said Alsip police Lt. Scott Zablotny. It wasn't clear if Porter was still hospitalized later Wednesday. Authorities, citing safety concerns, declined to say where he was.
The boy's father, Jeffrey Stone, 33; Stone's mother, Rhonda Marie Matthews, 59; and Stone's sister, Heather Minton, 37, were arrested when police stormed into a room at the Baymont Hotel in Alsip, working off a tip generated by a missing child alert. It wasn't clear why the family was in the Chicago area.
St. Louis prosecutors charged Stone and Matthews with kidnapping, interfering with custody and endangering the welfare of a child. No charges have been filed against Minton.
Stone and Matthews were jailed in Alsip on $1 million bond. It wasn't clear when they would face extradition to Missouri, and it wasn't clear if either had an attorney.
Porter's ordeal began earlier this year when he developed flu-like symptoms that continued to worsen. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and can no longer pump blood efficiently.
The condition worsened to the point that doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital put him on a heart transplant list.
Court records show Jeffrey and Tiffany Stone, 32, are getting a divorce and she has physical custody of Porter. Still, both parents accompanied Porter when he arrived at the hospital Friday to begin evaluations for a transplant. He was discharged at 3:50 p.m. Monday.
Hospital spokeswoman Jackie Ferman-Grothe said Jeffrey Stone took the boy with him, purportedly to get a prescription filled inside the hospital, while the mother was getting the car. When father and son didn't return, the mother contacted police. Hospital officials said Porter was wearing the small backpack where he keeps his IV material, but he had only enough medication for a day or two.
Jeffrey Stone called and texted his estranged wife several times to taunt her, St. Louis police officer Tracy Cole wrote in a probable cause statement. He called Tiffany Stone names, told her where he had their son and refused to let her speak to the boy, Cole said.
Public records indicate the Stones have moved around the U.S., with past addresses in Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, Oregon and California. They also apparently spent time in Texas: Alsip police listed an address for Jeffrey Stone in Grand Prairie, Texas, though St. Louis prosecutors said both he and his mother had an address in Hercules, Calif. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office cited Tarrant County, Texas, as the location for the court order granting custody of Porter to his mother.
It wasn't clear what Jeffrey Stone does for a living. Tiffany Stone has been licensed as a professional massage therapist in North Carolina and Missouri.
Messages left at various phone numbers listed for the Stones and their relatives were not returned Wednesday.
The Cardiomyopathy Association said the disease affects people of all ages and is mostly inherited. Porter apparently had no family history of the disease, said Dr. Charlie Canter, medical director of St. Louis Children's Hospital's heart failure program.
"By the way he presented, it seemed possible he had an infection of the heart," Canter said.
That was initially good news because it meant oral medication might stem the illness. But Porter's condition worsened and he required IV medication, Canter said. In recent weeks, even the IV medication wasn't working well, prompting the need to add him to the heart transplant list.
"There's still a chance he could recover," Canter said. "But we have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is he will not recover and will continue to deteriorate."
Canter said children Porter's age typically have to wait several months for a donor heart to become available. If the transplant occurs and is successful, the new heart typically lasts 15 to 16 years. If that heart fails, the patient can go back on a transplant waiting list, assuming his health is otherwise strong enough for a transplant.
Canter said Porter had 24 to 48 hours of medicine with him when he left the hospital. Once that ran out, he would most likely have developed flu-like symptoms, though he would not likely have been in immediate danger of dying, the doctor said.
Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago and Maria Sudekum Fisher in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.
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