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Thu, Aug. 22

Amber Alert ends with child safe

From left, Childress, Sgarlata and Willis

From left, Childress, Sgarlata and Willis

COTTONWOOD ­ The 24-hour Amber Alert search for 3-year-old Skyland Childress of Cottonwood ended well Thursday when authorities found her unharmed near a Fifth Street hotel in Cottonwood.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested the man they say kidnapped her, 17-year-old Corey Sgarlata, around 2:40 p.m.

For the better part of Thursday, however, the statewide Amber Alert remained in effect as the authorities' concern for the child's welfare increased.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Susan Quayle said the concern extended because of Sgarlata's extensive juvenile record and because he had said authorities "will never take her back."

At around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, deputies went to a residence on Wranglers Way in Cottonwood to help Child Protective Services return the girl to her biological mother.

Tina Wasik, who lives at the residence with Sgarlata and another son, has been Skyland's guardian since she was 3 months old, Quayle said.

"The guardianship expired a year ago, so Wasik had no legal claim to her," Quayle said. "The mother didn't know that."

When the mother learned that she could have her daughter back, Wasik apparently refused to return the child to her, Quayle said.

"That's when CPS and YCSO became involved," Quayle said, adding that she doesn't know why the mother didn't know that the guardianship expired. "The mother had visitations with her daughter."

During the time that Wasik and authorities spoke in front of the residence, Sgarlata, 17, and his 18-year-old brother returned home, she said.

Also, Wasik's friend, Mary Lynn Willis, 33, of Cottonwood, was present and told the teens that authorities were trying to take Skyland.

While authorities continued to talk with Wasik, Willis and Sgarlata went inside the residence and went out the back with Skyland.

"They used Willis' purple car to get away," Quayle said.

Later, deputies spotted the car and Willis at Sgarlata's girlfriend's house but not the suspect and the child, who left 30 minutes before the deputies arrived.

They arrested Willis on charges of kidnapping and custodial interference and issued an Amber Alert.

Quayle said the Sheriff's Office has no child abuse evidence against the guardian although the biological mother has alleged it.

Contact the reporter at mburic@prescottaz.com

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