Children are being exploited in record numbers thanks to the internet. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children operates a CyperTipline to help thwart online sexual exploitation of children. GINNY BEAGAN/TCPALM
Ginny Beagan, TCPALM
LAS CRUCES – Police are still on the hunt for two boys who were taken from a daycare center earlier this month by their father, who was allegedly upset about the outcome of a custody hearing earlier that day.
A nationwide warrant was issued this week for Clarence Michael Ransom, 52, charging him with failing to register as a sex offender, and non-compliance with a custodial agreement.
In 1991 in Oklahoma City, Ransom was convicted of raping an 11-year-old girl whom he didn’t know before the incident. As part of his sentence, he is required to register as a sex offender for life.
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Police believe Ransom took his two sons, Maverick Ransom, 3 and Orion Ransom 4, to Mexico, with two other adults, while under the influence of methamphetamine.
Since the warrant was issued and a news release sent to media, Dan Trujillo, spokesperson for the Las Cruces Police Department, said investigators have received numerous leads on the case, but none of them viable at this point.
Trujillo said authorities haven’t received any information that would indicate Ransom is explicitly trying to hurt his sons.
“We’re trying to find these kids. We’re continuing to ask the public on any assistance in this,” he said.
The last time she saw her sons
Kayla Christman, the boys’ mother, told the Sun-News the last time she saw her sons was when she put them in their father’s vehicle before a custody hearing on Oct. 8.
“We were waiting to go to court and he ended up taking off with them. I haven’t seen my kids for a long time. This is terrifying,” she said.
After the hearing, Christman said Ransom was agitated and peeled out of the courthouse parking lot. She’s not sure if he went directly to their kid’s daycare center, but that’s where he would eventually end up.
A daycare worker told Christman that when Ransom arrived at the facility, he was still agitated and she wouldn’t let him take the children until he calmed down, which he did.
The longest days
Although Ransom took off with the children on Oct. 8, police didn’t issue a news release until Oct. 28. Why the wait?
In New Mexico, there’s a law that states if a parent has custody of their children and poses no threat, investigators have to wait 14 days to begin an investigation.
For Christman, who called police as soon as Ransom broke court orders, the wait was excruciating, she said, but she’s glad now that the news about her sons’ disappearance is finally out there.
“Two weeks, two weeks to disappear and you still haven’t found them. This is crazy,” she said.
Christman said she’s been crying daily and trying to keep it all together, but it’s hard to stay focused.
“I think it was too freaking long to give him two weeks to disappear. I don’t know what kind of law it is, but it’s stupid,” she said.
In compliance … mostly
Christman said it surprised her that Ransom took the boys.
“He was doing good. This is the biggest surprise. This is crazy I never ever expected this to happen. Never,” she said.
Doña Ana County Sex Offender Registry Detective Robert Nevarez said until this incident, Ransom had complied registering as a sex offender.
On Oct. 3, a few days before the hearing, Ransom visited Nevarez in his office to renew his registration on the sex offender list.
“He mentioned something to me about a hearing coming up between he and his children. He was obtaining a restraining order from his ex so that he could gain custody of his children, and she got a restraining order against him,” Nevarez said.
Ultimately, the judge ruled on a 50/50 parenting agreement, he said.
“I believe he was upset about the way the hearing went,” Nevarez said.
Nevarez said Ransom seemed concerned for his children in previous meetings.
“He always struck me as a person who cared for his children,” Nevarez said.
But during this recent investigation, Nevarez reports Ransom no longer lived at his listed address, and that he had a second phone number that wasn’t given to the sex offender office.
Nevarez called both numbers for Ransom and they were disconnected.
Under the influence and paranoid
According to court documents, a female witness told investigators that she and a man nicknamed “Kick” were with Ransom and his children on Oct. 8, when Ransom told the two he wanted to flee to Mexico with his children, to keep them away from Christman.
The woman went along with the plans to take the children to Mexico, court documents state.
The three adults allegedly crossed into Juárez, Mexico — with Maverick and Orion — at 2 a.m. Oct. 9, court documents state.
The children, she said, slept either in the car, or a tent they set up on the side of the road.
The woman told investigators it was her job to take care of the children, and that Ransom’s plan was to eventually take them to Cancun, Mexico. She also told investigators that Ransom was under the influence of methamphetamine.
Court documents state the woman told investigators that Ransom became paranoid that she was talking to police, so he and Kick packed up the kids and left her on the side of the road.
She said she hitchhiked for two hours before arriving at a border checkpoint near Douglas, Arizona.
Court documents state the woman told investigators that Ransom has no intention of returning the children to their mother.
Christman said the idea that Ransom took their sons to Mexico is surprising because he doesn’t speak Spanish.
Christman said the memories she has of her sons are good ones.
“They’re crazy little boys. All they do is play nonstop, they’re so energetic. … Orion’s into monster trucks. Maverick, he’s into Spider-man and superheroes. Totally different personalities,” she said.
If there’s one thing she’d like Maverick and Orion to know, it’s that people are searching for them.
“I love you and I miss you guys hang in there you guys are all I think about I can barely focus on work but I have to keep working because I just got an apartment. I love you guys,” she said.
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