Grand Island children left in cold after kidnapping

Central Nebraska teens facing felony charges in the case
Two central Nebraska teenagers are facing multiple felony charges after a vehicle theft and kidnapping early Sunday morning.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 3:36 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2023 at 7:09 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Two central Nebraska teenagers are facing multiple felony charges after a vehicle theft and kidnapping early Sunday morning.

Tate Wolfe, 18, of Kearney and Jozef McAllister, 17, of Hastings, are both charged in Hall County Court with nine felony charges related to the incident that put three small children in danger.

Court records show those charges are three counts of kidnapping, three counts of child abuse, theft by unlawful taking, theft by receiving stolen property and operation of motor vehicle to avoid arrest (willfully reckless). McAllister also faces a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer.

Grand Island Police were dispatched to the 1400 block of N. Wheeler Avenue just before 3 a.m. Sunday after a report of a vehicle theft.

Police said the vehicle owner initially reported that his vehicle was stolen but did not provide additional details.

Local4 reached out to Hall County Emergency Manager Jon Rosenlund, who reviewed the initial 911 call taken. He said the caller sounded like a Hispanic male, and spoke Spanish with others in the background, but spoke English to the dispatcher.

He did say that the caller told dispatcher that someone took his car with “keys” inside.

After reviewing the call, Rosenlund said the man had an accent and what he may have actually said was “kids” inside and not “keys.”

Rosenlund said he listened to it multiple times and couldn’t tell which word was said.

At 3:02 a.m., a GIPD officer spotted the stolen Chevy Traverse, but was unaware that there were children in the vehicle. The officer tried to stop it near 8th Street and Lincoln, but the vehicle sped away, running through stop signs.

It wasn’t until officers arrived on scene about five minutes after the initial call that they learned about the three children inside the stolen car, ages 5, 1 and seven months old.

Surrounding agencies were notified of the vehicle theft and kidnapping at this point.

Captain Bob Anderson of the Buffalo County Sheriff’s office said deputies were alerted to the suspects fleeing west from Grand Island between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.

A deputy saw the suspects in the Traverse driving westbound on Highway 30 in Gibbon. The deputy started a pursuit and followed the car east from Gibbon and then north on county roads in eastern Buffalo county. The pursuit continued north and west on county roads until the deputy lost sight of the vehicle near 145th and Antelope road.

Anderson said a state trooper found the vehicle abandoned about two miles away near 160th and Cherry Avenue. That intersection is about eight miles northeast of Kearney. There were no children in the car at that point.

The trooper found footprints leading away from the car into a nearby field.

Investigators used a thermal imaging drone to find the suspects several hundred yards away from the vehicle.

In all, the pursuit covered about 12 miles and involved sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and Kearney police officers.

The suspects were arrested around 4 a.m. and transported back to Grand Island.

But the three children were still missing and a countywide search ensued for the children as temperature was at 0°F and a -19° wind chill.

At 4:52 a.m., a GIPD officer located a suspicious truck in the alley near 14th and Cleburn. It was a stolen pickup out of Kearney. Inside the truck, which wasn’t running, were the two oldest children. Court records indicate Tate stole the Traverse and met up with McAllister who was driving the pickup. Wolfe and McAllister then transferred the two oldest children into the pickup and abandoned it.

The baby was still missing and that’s when the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) was used to alert the public of the missing child.

Emergency alerts went out Sunday morning for a missing 7-month old in Grand Island.
Emergency alerts went out Sunday morning for a missing 7-month old in Grand Island.(KSNB)

It was that alert that led Chuck Sorahan to look outside and find the abandoned baby on his porch at 5:25 a.m., about two and a half hours after the kidnapping.

“His eyes were closed and his little hands were up on his chest,” Sorahan said. “I was thinking the worst at that point, but within probably half a minute it went from there to he was crying and it was the best cry I had ever heard honestly.”

All three children were transported for medical attention for suspected hypothermia and frostbite. GIPD said the children have all been treated and released, and reunited with their family.

GIPD said officers investigated the circumstances in which those children were in the car and found no negligent behavior on behalf of the parents, who are victims in this case.

Officers said the parents loaded the children in the running vehicle because of the cold, and while speaking briefly with neighbors, the suspects stole the running vehicle.

According to GIPD, these circumstances were backed up by video evidence.

“The safety of our community, and the most vulnerable of them, our children, was the foremost consideration throughout this case, and we are thankful the outcome was not worse given the circumstances caused by the suspects,” said Captain Jim Duering.

GIPD said in the arrest affidavit that neither teen showed remorse for leaving the children outside in the cold. Adding that McAllister told police he was more excited to go hang out with his buddy in jail, and asked to be taken there immediately.

Both suspects are due back in court on February 28 for their preliminary hearing. Bond is set at 10 percent of $1 million.