‘I am very happy to be free. I wish people in Louisiana could have learned from our mistakes’
According to authorities, an 8-year-old boy and his sister were found unharmed near the family’s home in Lacombe, Louisiana, which remains sealed off by authorities after the children were located on Thursday afternoon.
Amber and Noah Clare have since been placed in protective custody in Louisiana. An arrest warrant has been issued for their father, 33-year-old Thomas Eugene Clare, who remains on the run, according to the St John the Baptist Parish sheriff, Mike Tregre.
“Both of them are in good health, they’re both with their grandmother,” Tregre said Thursday afternoon.
He said his department is still investigating the children’s disappearance and asks anyone with information about Clare’s whereabouts to call Crimestoppers at 877-903-7867.
According to police, the children’s mother, Amber, 37, and Thomas Clare abducted them on New Year’s Eve. They also said that no arrests have been made.
Herman Smith, a family spokesman, told reporters on Thursday that both children were “safe and sound”. He said authorities were at the family’s home searching for Clare, who is wanted for kidnapping.
He added that he had been staying at the home with Amber and the children since the pair reported their daughters missing.
Smith said neither child had been in trouble with the law. The mother has an active felony protective order against her husband and was briefly incarcerated last year, according to court records.
He said police had also contacted authorities in the parish of Orleans, about 70 miles southwest of Lacombe, after seeing a man using services that weren’t offered in Louisiana.
The family has been featured in a sheriff’s department Facebook post and newspaper ads since last year.
“Dear friends, we know it’s been a while since you’ve seen us,” one ad read. “We hope you are keeping us close in your prayers and thoughts. We love you all so much and thank you for your support.”
In September, the family posted a video of Thomas Clare and Amber talking with reporters, part of which included the pair talking about an earlier incident in which they were accused of imprisoning her in her home.
“They put my daughter in a dank room,” he said. “And they wouldn’t let me take her out.”
In the video, Clare also mentions an incident in a large Oklahoma Walmart in 2013. He says that when he demanded she go to a drug rehabilitation centre, his wife pulled a knife and stabbed him, injuring him in the arm.
“I’m dying if they let my daughter go,” he said of himself and his wife. “The only way I’m going to get her out is to let her get in trouble.”
According to a prison database, Clare was arrested in southern Mississippi in October 2013 and later released in March 2016, with time served recorded as 13 years and 18 months.
He was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He reportedly had applied for a post office box in Mississippi after being released from jail, and then being arrested a second time in Oklahoma.
Thomas and Amber Clare left Lacombe on Wednesday morning. Police were notified at 3.40pm Wednesday afternoon after someone called authorities saying that they were missing. According to police, the family live at a home in the Belle Chasse section of nearby Slidell.
Before the arrests, more than 300 residents protested the authorities’ failure to locate the family, honking their horns as they headed to the home.
“It is frustrating because it’s a time of crisis and no one is going to be patient,” Roy L’Heureux, the mayor of Slidell, said in an interview with local television station WWL.