Back With Mom After 19 Days

Immediately after a 17-hour drive, Melissa Lee Ratledge collects her 14-month-old son James from Officer Braden Mican at the El Campo Police station. The boy had been taken from Illinois 19 days before by his father, a man now wanted for two counts of child abduction. He tells the paper, however, that the mother knew of the trip.

El Campo police reunited a 14-month-old boy with his mother Saturday, 19 days after he was abducted from Dixon, Ill., in what appears to be a child custody battle turned felony.

The suspect, Jason Coblentz, contacted the Leader-News via personal message Tuesday morning saying he intended to turn himself in to Illinois authorities. He added on the Leader-News’ Facebook page, “What was supposed to be a simple trip has turned into a nightmare, and it could ruin my life.”

Cook County, Ill., authorities issued two warrants for child abduction against Coblentz for taking his son James, a fact El Campo Police verified Friday after being contacted by the El Campo Leader-News.

The Leader-News then posted the photos of little James Coblentz and his father Friday on its social media and websites, and police were contacted by a follower less than an hour later.

“The entire time James was down there in Texas he was taken care of 110 percent as always,” Coblentz said. He says the boy’s mother was aware of the trip.

The boy was recovered in El Campo. The child was in a baby sitter’s care, Coblentz told the newspaper, while he was at work.

Coblentz found out about it all online after the newspaper’s posting.

The little boy’s mother Miranda Lee Ratledge began the 17-hour drive from Mount Morris, Ill., to El Campo shortly after James was found by police.

She contacted the Leader-News around 7 p.m. Friday. “I’m actually driving down with my boyfriend (who) is with me. We are both very excited,” she said, adding her son had “lots of hugs coming tomorrow.”

A part-time clerk at a Murphy’s in Dixon, Ill., Ratledge has two children – 4-year-old Bentley and 14-month-old James.

She shared custody of James with his father, Jason Coblentz. The child was with his father on Oct. 4. 

“I had gotten a message on Facebook from someone stating they needed to talk to me about James. They said Jason took James and left to Texas, so I immediately got ahold of the Dixon Police Department and had a child welfare check done.”

Dixon Police went to Jason Coblentz’ home, but were unable to locate him. He later confirmed he was going to Texas with her son, Ratledge said, adding he has friends in the El Campo area.

Prior to the flight to Texas, he and Ratledge shared equal custody, according to her.

“I was framed. I had no idea something like this could happen,” Coblentz said.

Saturday around noon, Ratledge stood in the El Campo PD lobby, 1011 West Loop, as officer Braden Mican passed custody of the boy to the smiling mom.

They quickly headed back north.

Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Jason Coblentz are urged to contact the El Campo Police at 979-543-5311 or the West Wharton County Crime Stoppers at 979-543-8477.

Callers to the Crime Stoppers Tip Line do not have to give their names to qualify for a cash reward.

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