As a Slidell mother was being reunited Sunday with her 5-week-old son who had been missing for two days, friends of the Violet woman accused of kidnapping the boy struggled to understand how she could have done such a thing.
Takisha Douglas dropped her child off Friday morning with Sarah Harris, 48, a woman she had known for years but had never before asked to baby-sit one of her children, while Douglas went to work. A few hours later, she could no longer reach Harris by phone and couldn’t find her anywhere.
She notified police her baby had been kidnapped.
After working all night, authorities found Harris and the boy about 7:30 a.m. Sunday while Harris was walking on Congress Street off Chef Menteur Highway in eastern New Orleans. She was booked on a count of aggravated kidnapping.
The boy, Tristan Cayden Douglas, was reported to be slightly dehydrated but otherwise in good condition.
One friend described Harris as a “very nice” and “very respectful” woman, while a family member explained that she suffers from mental illness and wasn’t properly medicated the day she was put in charge of caring for Tristan.
“She was a pretty decent lady from what I understand,” said a neighbor, a 36-year-old cook named Nicholas Bell. “That was a shock to me. I personally think it’s a misunderstanding.”
Bell described Harris as a churchgoing woman with kids of her own who always taught them to be respectful to neighbors.
Kevin Anderson, her next-door neighbor and brother-in-law, expressed similar sentiments. Anderson, 52, who said he is married to Harris’ sister, said Harris is bipolar and suffers from depression and that she takes medicine for both illnesses.
“She hadn’t taken her medicine,” he said.
On Sunday, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann described a focused effort on the part of his office and the FBI to find the missing infant, saying they worked through the night after an alert was issued that he might be in danger.
“This was a great outcome, the best it could have been,’’ Pohlmann said. “The longer something like this goes on, the less likely the chance is for a good outcome.”
After being found, Tristan was evaluated by the staff at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans before being reunited with his mother.
Pohlmann said the FBI and his office developed information that led them to Harris and the baby after spending hours tracking down leads on where she had been with the child.
The sheriff himself took part in running down leads during the night.
Officials had said Saturday evening that the 5-week-old might be in danger after Harris told Takisha Douglas, the mother, about noon Friday that she was going to a Franklin Avenue convenience store. Douglas could not get in touch with her after that.
Douglas had dropped Tristan off at Harris’ house, in the 2000 block of Guerra Drive in Violet, before going to work.
She said she called Harris at 12:20 p.m. to check on the boy, at which time Harris said she was driving to the store on Franklin Avenue.
After leaving work, the mother tried to call Harris again but got no answer. In the meantime, she had to return to Slidell to pick up her other children.
When she got back to Harris’ house, she learned that Harris had never returned home earlier in the day. After searching the area and contacting the woman’s relatives, she contacted police to report her son was missing.
Police said they found no evidence to substantiate Harris’ statement that she was going to the store she mentioned. Nor was a 2014 black four-door Dodge Charger with a Louisiana license plate that police were looking for found when she was arrested.
Harris initially was taken to the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office for debriefing and then was transferred to St. Bernard Parish Prison to be booked on aggravated kidnapping, the sheriff said.
The mother initially reported the disappearance to New Orleans police on Friday, but the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation because the last place Harris and the child had been seen was at her residence in St. Bernard.
On Sunday, Anderson said Harris has four kids of her own — two boys and two girls. He described her as a family woman who has a fiancé she’s been with for three years.
“She’s a good person,” he added.