WESTFIELD – A young woman who allegedly kidnapped her daughter and fled the state triggering an Amber Alert in October has been returned to the Commonwealth and was arraigned Friday on charges resulting from her actions.
The case began early in the morning of Oct. 31 when a Woodmont Street resident, Katheryn Kozaczek, called city police, at 5:51 a.m., to report that her daughter, Cheryl Kozaczek, 28, had stolen her pickup truck and abducted her granddaughter.
Although the 14-week-old child was Cheryl Kozaczek’s daughter, custody had been granted to the baby’s grandmother because the infant’s mother was not mentally stable.
Katheryn Kozaczek’s household included, in addition to her husband and granddaughter, her daughter, son and the child’s father.
She said that her daughter had been last seen about 1 a.m. and said that sometime after that her daughter had stolen her pickup truck and had left the area, taking the baby with her.
Within hours of the report, an Amber Alert was issued and law enforcement agencies nationwide were alerted to the situation and advised that Westfield District Court had issued warrants for kidnapping of a minor by a relative and for larceny of a motor vehicle.
Katheryn Kozaczek speculated that her daughter might be en route to California where she had lived for a time but, by early afternoon that day, police had developed information that Cheryl Kozaczek was heading south and had been reported in Maryland. Virginia and North Carolina state police had been alerted to be on the lookout for the fleeing woman.
Virginia State Police reported a short time later that, at 2:45 p.m. Kozaczek had been stopped near the North Carolina border and taken into custody.
The child was safe and was promptly returned to the Commonwealth and the custody of the Department of Children and Families.
It took longer to affect the return of Kozaczek but on Wednesday city Det. Roxann Bradley and Trooper Gary Fitzgerald of the Street Police detective unit attached to the Hampden County District Attorney’s office flew to Virginia to escort Kozaczek back to the city.
Back in Westfield on Thursday, Kozaczek was booked and, on Friday, appeared in court for arraignment.
In district court, Judge Philip Contant allowed a motion for a competency evaluation and Kozaczek was interviewed by Dr. Frank Wilson of the court’s clinic.
Wilson reported to the court later in the day that his evaluation showed that “she is competent to go forward and to begin the process of working with (court appointed) attorney (Kathleen Cavanaugh-)Whitley.”
Contant entered a plea of not guilty on the defendant’s behalf.
Assistant District Attorney Fred Burns argued for a high cash bail of $500,000 because the defendant’s mother had told police that “Cheryl’s mental health issues involve paranoia, bi-polar disorder and unspecified psychoses” and because of her demonstrated “potential, again, for her to leave the state and flee the jurisdiction.”
Cavanaugh-Whitley in turn argued that Kozaczek has no criminal record, has been found competent and is fully aware of the proceedings.
She said “there is no reason for the court to believe that she would not show up to her next court date.”
She said that the baby remains in the custody of the Department of Children and Families and said that, after a discussion with the baby’s grandmother, she expects that the baby will be returned to her family by the agency once a plan and counseling have been established in due time.
Cavanaugh-Whitney asked for “a high personal surety with conditions of release.”
Contant set conditions of release but required $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety.
He ordered that Kozaczek make no abuse, threats or violence toward the child or her parents and prohibited Kozaczek from removing the baby from the Commonwealth without prior court approval. He also ordered that she is “not to interfere in the custody, placement or care of the minor child with any individual or agency with whom the child is placed.”
Kozaczek will return to court on Jan. 10, 2013, for a pre-trial hearing.