JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi authorities were searching Thursday for four young girls last seen with their mother and stepfather who are charged with mistreating the children.
The girls had been put into state protective custody, but Canton Assistant Police Chief Juan Cloy said investigators believe the mother and stepfather took them after the couple got out of jail on bond. The family was last seen Sept. 7 at a home in Canton.
"We have every reason to believe the children are in danger," Cloy told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
He said law enforcement officers believe the children might face harm from their stepfather, Fernando Coria-Pelay, 24, who was charged with felony child abuse in May.
"We want to get him away from the children," Cloy said of the stepfather.
Cloy said the girls' mother, Sonia Elisabeth Coronado, 28, was charged with felony child neglect.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 12 issued a missing and endangered child alert for Kimberly Elizabeth Gomez-Coronado, 6; Jackelyn Belinda Gomez-Coronado, 5; Evelin Fernanda Coria-Coronado, 2; and Mendy Coria-Coronado, 1.
Cloy said Canton police have issued kidnapping warrants for Coria-Pelay and Coronado.
He would not say whether investigators believe the family is still in Mississippi. He said the girls were born in the United States, their mother is from Guatemala and the stepfather is from Mexico. He said the location of the children's biological father was not immediately available.
Canton police are working with state and federal investigators and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on the case, Cloy said.