Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Missing children found safe in the Lower Keys

Three Illinois children who were reported missing five days ago were found safe in the Lower Keys Tuesday morning following a traffic stop on U.S. 1 by a veteran Florida Keys trooper who noticed the suspect vehicle matched Amber Alert reports.

Child welfare authorities and police from Kankakee, Ill., reported that Artistic Fletcher, 1, Nicholas Lane, 5, and Damien Kelly, 7, were missing, along with Arthur Fletcher, 32, and his wife, Kirsten Kelly-Fletcher, 28.

Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. Gary Dunick stopped the car carrying the two adults and three children around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday near Mile Marker 23.5 on Cudjoe Key, according to an FHP press release.

Illinois authorities had notified the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to be on the lookout for the family, as the five were believed to be traveling toward Key West.

Arthur "Artie" Fletcher is accused of taking the youngest child, Artistic, from an Illinois hospital last week before fleeing with Kirsten and the other children as child welfare authorities there were beginning an investigation into bruises on Artistic, according to CBS Chicago reports.

Dunick made a U-turn while on U.S. 1 after noticing the vehicle with Illinois tags that matched descriptions released by Illinois State Police, reports say.

Dunick reportedly stopped the vehicle and requested backup as he checked on the children, all of whom were in proper child-restraint seats and appeared to be in good health, reports state.

Both adults were cooperative during the stop and when additional troopers, Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies and FDLE and FBI agents responded to the scene.

The children were turned over to officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families.

There appeared to be some confusion in Illinois over the status of the two adults, as no criminal charges had been filed in the case, according to CBS Chicago reports.

Officials there told law enforcement they simply wanted the children returned safely so they could continue the investigation, according to CBS Chicago and Miami reports.

Both Kirsten Kelly-Fletcher and Arthur Fletcher were subsequently released after it was determined they had no active warrants, according to the FHP press release.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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