After A Two-Year Search, Man Finally Finds Missing Son In A Completely Unexpected Place
Custody battles can be messy and have a tendency to bring out the worst in people. Between all of the lawyers and court hearings, parents might forget what is really important: their child or children.
No one was prepared for the custody battle over Ricky Chekevida to turn into a two-year-long abduction. The fact that it was Ricky’s mother who he disappeared with left more than one raised eyebrow. But what the police discovered after two years shocked everyone.
Richard “Ricky” Chekevdia Was In The Middle Of A Custody Battle
It was 2007 when Richard “Ricky” Chekevdia and his mother, Shannon Wilfong of southern Illinois’ Franklin County, disappeared into the night. It was a suspicious disappearance, considering that Shannon was in the middle of an ugly custody battle with Ricky’s dad, Michael.
For two years, Ricky and Shannon were lost to the wind. That is, until the authorities decided to re-investigate one of their family members. What they ended up finding is too horrible to even imagine.
The Parents’ Relationship Was Not Stable
Shannon and Michael had a rocky relationship even before the 2002 birth of their only son, Ricky. They were an on-again-off-again couple for years, with the only permanent thing in their relationship being their constant bickering.
Once Ricky was born, the parents decided to work out a shared-custody arrangement because the environment in which they were living was not healthy for their son. The agreement worked for a time.
A Custody Battle Was The Only Option
Although Ricky’s mom loved him, he was forming a closer bond with his father. Even after Michael was deployed to Iraq as an Illinois National Guard lieutenant colonel, he managed to maintain a close relationship with his son.
The relationship between Shannon and Michael only got worse when he returned home. What should have been a celebratory occasion instead ended in a custody battle. Shannon was refusing to let Michael see his son, even though she didn’t have full custody.
Ricky And His Mother Did Not Show For The Hearing
A custody battle ensued. Shannon even went as far as claiming that Michael abused Ricky before he had to report overseas. But when the day and time came for the three of them to appear in court together, Shannon and Ricky did not show.
It wasn’t just the court hearing. The two of them had completely disappeared. After two months of no communication, the local police department officially listed them as missing persons. Michael was in shock.
Police Issued A Warrant For Shannon’s Arrest
Considering that Shannon had run off with her son in the midst of a custody battle, the police issued a warrant for her arrest. The good news is that it was unlikely that Ricky was hurt. Police assumed that Shannon fled with their son because she didn’t want to risk Michael getting visitation rights.
The question is why? Michael was a good father. So why was Shannon making it sound like he was the villain when she was the one who abducted their boy.
Shannon’s Mother Wasn’t Exactly Helpful
Child abductions are not taken lightly, and police officers will follow every lead they can get their hands on. One of the leads was Shannon’s mother, Diane Dobbs. But instead of being helpful, Dobbs told the police that Michael was abusive.
She even went so far as saying that her daughter probably ran off with the boy in hopes of saving him from a household like that. The only issue was that Dobbs took it one step further.
Diane Started Hand-Writing Horrible Flyers
Dobbs began a smear campaign against Michael, passing out hand-written flyers stating that he was abusive and wouldn’t take a lie-detecter test. She even went to his church to “spread the word,” along with The Southern Illinoisan newspaper of Carbondale, Illinois, that her daughter was forced into hiding to keep Ricky from his father.
Was anything she was saying true? Or, was Diane Dobbs covering for her daughter’s crime? Michael had a sneaking suspicion that his ex-girlfriend’s mother was hiding something.
Michael Knew Diane Was Hiding Something
During the investigation, Michael knew Diane Dobb’s was hiding something. He would bet money that she knew where his son was located. The only problem was that he had no way to prove it.
Two years passed without any evidence or leads. Then, in 2009, the police received an anonymous tip. They were going back to Diane Dobbs’ house, but this time, they had a warrant and they weren’t leaving until they found Ricky and Shannon.
Diane’s Walls Had Many Secret Compartments
Over the course of the investigation, police had searched Diane’s house — specifically, right when the two went missing. But this time, their search led them to a serious of hidden crawl spaces and hidden places in the walls. What was she doing with numerous hidden spaces in her walls?
It was in one of these secret spaces, behind a small dresser, that the authorities found Ricky and his mother crouched over and hiding. The search was finally over!
Ricky Looked As Though He Hadn’t Seen The Sun
After two years, the little boy and his mother were finally found. “Basically, it was a hidden compartment,” said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Stan Diggs. “You move a panel, and it was inside the wall.”
Ricky was sickly-white, looking as if he hadn’t seen the sun in his entire life. “We let him out of the car, and he ran around like he’d never seen the outdoors,” Sergeant Stan Diggs said. “It was actually very sad.”
Shannon And Diane Were Arrested
Shannon Wilfong was immediately arrested for felony child abduction. But she wasn’t the only one in the family who did was on the wrong side of the law. Her mother, Diane, faced charges of aiding and abetting her daughter.
While she was out on bail, Diane said that Ricky spent a total of “five minutes” in the little hole in the wall. No one bought her story. Shannon’s bail bond was set at $42,500.
No One Believed The Mother And Daughter
Almost immediately after appearing on Good Morning America to talk about the whole ordeal, Diane was rearrested. The ugly truth was coming out about the mother and daughter. Now, no one was on Shannon’s side, believing that she had wronged Michael and Ricky in one of the worst ways.
People no longer saw Michael as the abuser Shannon and Diane made him out to be; he was as much a victim as Ricky.
Shannon Ended Up Pleading Guilty
Shannon ended up pleading guilty to her charges. She even admitted to locking her son away when visitors were over and only letting him outside once the sun went down. Considering that she kidnapped her son in the middle of a custody battle, a lot of people think her sentence was too easy.
Because she pleaded guilty, Shannon received a lesser sentence. It included a $1,500 fine, a month in jail, and two years probation. Her mother fared a bit better.
The Mother Wants To Work Toward Visitation Rights
As she had a “lesser role” in the abduction of Ricky, Diane Dobbs was sentenced to 12 days in jail and fined $1,000. Although they both ended up pleading guilty, they don’t believe they are. It’s been reported that they truly believe that they were helping Ricky stay safe by keeping him away from his father.
Dobbs says that her daughter finally confessed to the truth of the kidnapping. She would prefer to work toward gaining visitation rights, which probably won’t happen for some time.
Michael Was In Shock
Michael was ecstatic to finally have his son back in his life, saying, “When they notified me that they had found him, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather.” Who wouldn’t be in shock after learning that their child who had been missing for two years was only three miles down the road the entire time?
After being reunited with his son, Michael retired from the military to be a full-time dad. So, all of the adults have been taken care of, but how is the seven-year-old doing?!
Ricky Was In Good Spirits
Although one would think living an isolated existence as a small child would have lasting effects on Ricky’s mental health, it didn’t. Diggs, the officer who found Ricky, said, “Ricky is in very good spirits for someone who’s been isolated in that house with no other outside interaction. He’s [a] very polite, social, talkative little boy.”
Even Ricky’s father, Michael, thinks he’s in good spirits, despite what he looks like and what happened to him over the past two years.
Michael Wasn’t Able To Take His Son Home Just Yet
Unfortunately, Ricky wasn’t able to go home with his father right away. The accusations Shannon made of abuse were still being investigated, and after everything the little boy had been through, no one could really blame the child-welfare workers for taking extra precautions.
Even though Michael has rejected the allegations, his son went to live with some of his relatives for a while. Even so, he is more than overjoyed to know Ricky has been found and that he is safe.
Michael Was Allowing The System To Investigate
As for the allegations, Michael told Good Morning America, “I was investigated three times, and I complied with everybody’s desires and wishes in those investigations, and every one of those investigations were unfounded.”
As Ricky’s dad told everyone from the beginning, the accusations Shannon was throwing his way were false. It’s possible that Shannon was jealous of how close Ricky and his father were. But that doesn’t mean that she should have taken the law into her own hands and hidden their son.
Michael Doesn’t Wish This Ordeal On Anyone
Thankfully, Ricky has been found and he is doing well. “Two years? You have no idea. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve lost weight. I’ve gained weight. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” says Michael. For most of the two years, Dobbs’ house has blocked off from prying eyes, meaning her shades were always drawn so no one could see into the house.
Now the isolation makes sense. Michael says, “I had a firm belief he was in there, and yesterday (Friday) it was confirmed,” Chekevdia said.
Michael Makes Sure Ricky Spends Lots Of Time Outside Playing
After a two-year nightmare, Michael is finally able to rest, knowing his son is safe and no longer missing. He told reporters that he is just eager to get his son back in school and to go see a dentist! After being isolated in a tiny 12-feet long, five-feet wide, and four-foot-tall room, it’s good to see that Ricky is in high spirits.
Today, Michael makes sure he and Ricky spend as much time outside as they can. According to his father, Ricky has grown “leaps and bounds” since the abduction.