Niles, Mich. Police say a 7-year-old escaped abduction Wednesday, after a woman pretending to be with Child Protective Services allegedly tried to take her away from her neighborhood.
A woman approached AnnJelina Kantz near her home in the 600 block of North 7th Street in Niles at around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Police say 50-year-old Bonnie Farrow started talking to AnnJelina and tried to lead her away.
"One lady who I never knew started pushing me," AnnJelina said. "Never seen her before. So, why wouldn't I be scared?"
That’s when a neighbor saw what was happening, and yelled for Farrow to stop.
AnnJelina ran back inside her home, but Farrow followed her and knocked on bathroom door for the child’s mother.
"She says 'It's CPS,'" AnnJelina's mom, Kassondra Benson, said. "I said, 'Hold on a minute, I'll be right out.' And, then when I came out, you could tell by looking at her that it wasn't CPS."
Benson says Farrow told her a little girl in the neighborhood was in danger, but Benson didn't buy her story. So, she told the woman to get out.
But, she didn't get far. Police found Farrow a couple houses down sitting on an apartment porch. They arrested her on charges of home invasion, kidnapping/child enticement and impersonating an FIA worker. Farrow was arraigned on the charges Thursday morning.
She’s being held in the Berrien County Jail on $50,000 bond. A pretrial conference is scheduled for September 13th.
NewsCenter 16 spoke with Farrow's ex-husband over the phone Thursday night. He says Farrow has mental health issues and needs treatment. He says she would never try to harm anyone and was likely confused and trying to help AnnJelina. Farrow's ex-husband says he's not sure how she got to AnnJelina's neighborhood, but she often just takes off walking.
NewsCenter 16 sat down with a few of Farrow’s family members Friday because they wanted to share their side of the story.
They say Farrow suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, has wandered off in the past and tries to help people if she suspects they are in trouble.
“My mom, even since we were small, has always been a wonderful mother. It was just because of her sickness she wasn't able to take care of us,” says one of Farrow’s daughters, Heidi Jones.
They say she has been in and out of mental health facilities since she was 27. Most recently, they say she was released from Oaklawn in Goshen last week after the State of Indiana committed her. They say she was also just diagnosed with dementia.
“We thought, she got an apartment and we thought everything was going ok,” adds Jones.
They say in spite of any mental illness Farrow has always been very protective, especially when it comes to the safety of kids.
“If you have Bonnie watch a child, that child is not going to get out of her sight,” says ex-sister-in-law, Avaline Stowe.
They believe it was that paranoia that led to Wednesday’s incident.
“I said nobody is going to understand. She was scared that that child was in danger. Either going to run out in front of a car or become abducted by somebody, which she got accused of, or she thought she was being neglected. So, in her own childish mind, she thought, 'I am going to go in there, I’ll scare that lady’ and she went in there and told her I am from child protective services and probably wanted to put fear in her to watch her child better,” adds Stowe.
Farrow's family says police should have known about her mental health issues and say she should have been taken to a hospital, not a jail cell.
“She won’t eat, she won’t get her meds, she will deteriorate faster mentally and my heart goes out to the mother who thought her child was being taken,” says Stowe.
Now, they admit that this would have been a horrifying situation for that 7-year-old girl and her family and they are not saying what Farrow did was right. They are saying Bonnie had no intention of hurting that child, she has never done anything like this before and her medication had to have been off to cause these actions.
Following a similar attempted abduction incident in their jurisdiction earlier this month, Sgt. William Redman with St. Joseph County police released a statement Wednesday addressing the possibility that the two cases are connected:
"Our department is aware of the arrest and our detectives will be working with Michigan authorities to investigate further. Our detectives will investigate to see if this female is in any way connected to the attempted kidnapping incident in Granger recently. At this time, it is unknown whether these two incidents are connected."
The St. Joseph County Police Department released another statement clearing Bonnie’s name Friday afternoon saying,
“The St. Joseph County Police Department was able to interview Bonnie Farrow in Michigan today, September 6, 2013. Two detectives spoke with Ms. Farrow regarding an incident in Granger that happened on August 26, 2013 where a blonde lady is reported to have approached a little girl. Ms. Farrow denied any involvement with the incident and was able to provide investigators with her location outside the county on that date. We were able to independently verify her whereabouts at the relevant time period on August 26, 2013 as being at an in-patient out-of-county treatment facility. Based upon our investigation into Ms. Farrow's whereabouts on August 26, 2013 after 4PM, we are confident that Ms. Farrow was not present within St. Joseph County at or around the time the little girl in Granger reported that someone made contact with her”.
The St. Joseph County Police did tell NewsCenter 16 that there have been several instances of Farrow being taken to local facilities by police.
In July 2012, she was transported to a mental health facility after being described as "out of control" at a home on Cleveland Road. We are also told she went to jail for criminal trespassing, also in 2012.