The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office issued an AMBER Alert for two children, Ashlynn Wells and Desmond Wells, III, Tuesday morning, Aug. 31. The children had been missing from Rusk since Monday afternoon, but were found safe Tuesday.
The sheriff’s office received the call regarding the two missing children approximately 8:43 p.m. Aug. 30. The caller indicated the children were last seen at 1:15 p.m. when they had been left with Jesse Schmidt, 32, a man living with the family. When the caller arrived back home at 4:30 p.m., the two children and Schmidt were no longer at the home and numerous firearms were missing.
The Cherokee County Criminal Investigation Division began their attempt to locate Schmidt and the two children. At approximately 12 a.m. Aug. 31, Schmidt’s phone pinged indicating he was in the Kilgore area. Although checked by the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office at that time, the location of Schmidt, the children and the vehicle remained unknown.
Efforts to find Schmidt and the children continued through the night and about 5 a.m. an AMBER Alert was issued giving descriptions of the children, Schmidt and a vehicle.
The Texas Rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Marshals were contacted to assist on the case because they have more resources than are available in the county, according to Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson.
“They have divisions and analysts and certain people set up to work these kind of crimes and they do it all over the country on a daily basis so we wanted to make sure we had the best here to put us in the right direction to make sure we find these kids alive,” Dickson said.
After the Texas Rangers and FBI joined the investigation, a tip was received that stated Schmidt and the children had been seen in the Kilgore Walmart. The Kilgore Police Department was notified and asked to check Walmart security camera.
Kilgore Police Department’s Detective Joey Johnston and Sgt. Chitwood located Schmidt and the two children outside Motel 6 in Kilgore. Officers took Schmidt into custody and secured the children.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division, the FBI and Texas Rangers interviewed Schmidt at the Kilgore Police Department.
Following that interview, Schmidt was arrested for kidnapping and arraigned, where the judge issued a $500,000 bond. Schmidt was then transported to the Cherokee County jail.
The outcome of the investigation, finding the children safe and in a relatively short time, was a positive one.
“Finding them safe within 24 hours of them going missing, our department and the other agencies really stepped up and put out the effort to make sure these kids were found safe and eventually returned back to their family,” Dickson said.
The case is still active pending further investigation. The charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and aggravated kidnapping were expected to be added Sept. 2, according to information provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.