EDWARDSVILLE, ILL. - UPDATE: Thirteen-year-old Katherine Derleth and her three week old son Christopher have been located and are now safely in the custody of law enforcement.
A devastated mother is pleading for her 13-year-old daughter and newborn grandson to return home safely.
Thirteen-year-old Katherine Derleth and her three week old son have been missing from Madison County since Sunday morning. They were last seen with Katherine’s stepfather, Chris Derleth, in West Virginia on Monday.
Madison County investigators say they’ve been fielding quite a few tips of reporting sightings, and are concentrating their search on West Virginia and the east coast. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is heavily involved, and the AMBER Alert is still active.
Breaking: here are actual photos of the van missing kids are thought to be in. Van has PIASA logo & unique damage. pic.twitter.com/do5Lebc260— Rebecca Sheehan (@RebeccaRSheehan) September 21, 2016
NewsChannel 5’s Rebecca Sheehan spoke exclusively with Katherine Derleth’s mother, who says this is all too much to bear.
Jennifer Derleth is fragile but a fighter, with an oxygen tank for lung problems, and proudly wearing the t-shirt her twin daughters gave her on Mother's Day.
"I won't let nothing get me down,” she says. “My children are my life."
Just three weeks ago, Jennifer sat by Katherine's side for 36 hours, as the 13-year-old gave birth. She says, "I was there when he was born. She was nervous, scared."
Early Sunday, investigators say Katherine's stepfather took Katherine and her baby, also named Chris, from a foster home near Edwardsville. A restraining order had been filed to keep him away from the teenage girl.
Katherine’s mother says the eighth grader left her cell phone behind, but did have time to grab formula for the baby.
Jennifer says her daughter loves music and drawing, and plans to keep her baby: "She loves to cook, she loves to take care of people, she always has."
For legal reasons, Jennifer couldn't discuss why her husband of five years may have left the state with her daughter and grandson. She did say that Chris loves to camp, anywhere by a lake. She's hoping that's where they are: "We used to go camping all the time, so it would be nothing new. I don't know if he has our camping gear with him."
At camp sites, highway rest stops, gas stations, and motels, she's pleading the American public to be on the lookout for the following:
- Chris Derleth's van: A green 1997 Mercury Villager with a PIASA dealership logo on the rear, and visible damage on the rear and driver’s side. It was last spotted in West Virginia.
- Chris Derleth: A 6-foot-tall man with blue eyes, who often wears sunglasses.
- Katherine Derleth & her newborn baby: A very soft-spoken girl who’s under 5 feet tall, often wears a pony tail, and glasses, and will likely be holding her newborn baby. She has a heart condition and had a pacemaker implanted at birth. The equipment needed to insure that the pacemaker is properly working was left behind.
Through tears, her mother implores: "To Katherine, if you're listening to this, know that your sister and your family all love you very much. Stay strong, we're praying for you and have faith that you'll be in my arms again."
If you have seen this green van, or anyone matching these descriptions, contact the Madison County Sheriff's Department or call 911.