Missing Hagerstown teen found in Mexico

December 26, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A 14-year-old boy who was reported missing from Hagerstown in 1998 was found Tuesday when he and his mother went to a U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico, to try and get passports, Hagerstown Police Department Detective Steven Hoover said Friday.

Hoover had entered information about Joseph Alexander Kennedy, then 4, into the National Crime Information Center database back in 1998. Hoover removed Joseph Kennedy from the NCIC database Friday, he said.

In 1998, the case was classified as a "family abduction." The boy last was seen Aug. 16, 1998, in Hagerstown.

Kennedy's father, Donald Wiswell, had reported his son missing, Hoover said Friday. Wiswell was not married to Kennedy's mother, Hoover said.

In 2000, Hoover was able to further publicize the case after Wiswell reported his son's mother, Tamara Kaye Kennedy, now 58, missing, Hoover said. It was at that point that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children began advertising that Joseph Kennedy was missing with his mother, Hoover said.


The Associated Press reported Friday that the mother and boy were flown Wednesday to Houston, where Tamara Kennedy was arrested.

Houston Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin says Wiswell went Wednesday to Texas to see his son, but 14-year-old Joseph Kennedy wouldn't meet with him. Olguin says the boy is in foster care until a custody hearing Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Throughout the years, Hoover has followed up leads of possible sightings of the missing mother and son all over the country and in Canada, he said.

Several months ago, authorities found out the two were in Mexico, Hoover said. He would not elaborate about how authorities learned the Kennedys were in Mexico.

Maryland State Police have been involved in the case for some time, and several months ago obtained a federal warrant naming Tamara Kaye Kennedy as wanted on a kidnapping charge, Hoover said.

The trooper who had been working on the case was not available Friday.

At the time of the disappearance, Wiswell and Tamara Kennedy were involved in a custody dispute.

Washington County Circuit Court was closed Friday, but online records indicate that Tamara Kennedy was found to be in contempt of court on Jan. 20, 1999, because she failed to respond to notices from the court. A Washington County Circuit judge on Jan. 21, 1999, issued a bench warrant for her.

The records also show that several notices of a 1999 hearing date that the court sent to Tamara Kennedy were returned by the post office. Her husband, Michael Kennedy, was required to appear at some of the hearings, records show.

A July 30, 1999, entry and another on Sept. 15, 1999, in the custody case's online record show that Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III awarded legal custody and sole physical custody of Joseph Kennedy to Wiswell. The online record goes on to say that because Tamara Kennedy "presents a risk of flight with the child," should the child be returned to his father, visitation with his mother "shall only be permitted with appropriate limitations after consideration by a hearing to be scheduled before this Court."

Boone's order continued, "Upon apprehension of Plaintiff/Counter Defendant Tamara Kennedy, she shall be held at the WCDC (Washington County Detention Center) pending a purge hearing to be scheduled by this Court; further that while this Amended Order is a final order with regard to the issue of custody, for the purposes of appeal this case shall remain open until the child has been produced to the Court."

Information available at The Charley Project's Web site, a site that profiles missing person cold cases, shows that authorities originally believed that Joseph and Tamara Kennedy might have been on a Native American reservation, and described Tamara Kennedy as Native American.

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