HomeCrimeThree arrested after missing child found safe
Three arrested after missing child found safe
December 26, 2022
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Three people have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of 13-year-old Ean Stephens on December 22: his grandfather, his step-grandmother, and a neighbor, who allegedly offered to help Ean find a new home and be adopted. Ean was found unharmed in Clay County yesterday.
According to arrest reports, Ean was living with the Stephens at Oak Glade Apartments but did not attend school. The investigation revealed that he spends his days walking around outside, talking to people of all ages and backgrounds, including “a man currently incarcerated under a rape charge, felons, dangerous criminals, drugs addicts, and drug dealers.” A Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officer reported that Ean has no phone or any other means of communication, does not have a key to the Stephens’ apartment, doesn’t know the Stephens’ phone numbers, doesn’t know his own address, and thinks he lives in “Ocala Apartments.” Ean reportedly does not know what city he lives in and cannot read or write; he has not attended school since second grade.
On the night of December 22, the Stephens left Ean at home while they went grocery shopping at about 9:30 p.m. When they returned at about 10:15 p.m., he wasn’t there. They began looking for him and asked Mejia if she had seen him. Mejia reportedly said she had not seen him and told them they had to wait 8-12 hours to report a child missing. She reportedly recommended that they “google it,” and an officer verified that the Stephens searched for that information at about 12:45 a.m. on December 23. They called 911 shortly after that search.
A GPD officer obtained surveillance video from a nearby store on December 24 that showed Ean running from the direction of his home at about 10:50 p.m. He was joined by another person, referred to as a witness, a few moments later; both appeared to be out of breath and kept looking behind them. At about 11:04 p.m., they began walking back in the direction they’d come from.
Officers located the witness, who reportedly said that Mejia knew the witness was with Ean at the store and that she had picked them up.
Based on that information, a search warrant was obtained for Mejia’s apartment, and the search was conducted on December 25. The search reportedly produced a large amount of drugs: 238 grams of marijuana, 12.89 grams of crack cocaine, 4.9 grams of methamphetamine, 21.79 grams of MDVP, and one gram of an unknown powdery substance dyed green. Officers also reportedly found a scale, baggies, and safety razors. 25 Suboxone pills were also found with no prescription bottle.
Another witness reportedly told officers that Mejia is known to sell drugs.
Mejia reportedly arrived at the apartment while officers were searching it, and when an officer told her she needed to talk to her, Mejia reportedly said she knew and “he’s safe.” Post Miranda, Mejia reportedly said Ean was unhappy living with his family and that he wanted to run away, so she took him. She did not provide any information about Ean’s location.
Detectives used Mejia’s phone data to locate Ean in Clay County. According to a release from GPD, officers believed Ean was at one of two possible locations in Clay County. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office responded, confirmed the location of the child, and notified GPD that he was safe and unharmed. GPD detectives met with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and recovered the missing child.
After he was found, Ean reportedly had many scars and told detectives that the Stephens beat him “all the time” and that they consumed narcotics in front of him. Ean reportedly told detectives that the Stephens had him approach strangers to sell items they had shoplifted from stores; they also reportedly made Ean search parking lots for cash receipts, then go take items from the shelves of the store to return for cash.
Tommy Stephens is Ean’s grandfather and legal guardian, and Jamie is Tommy’s wife and Ean’s step-grandmother. Detectives investigating the case learned that Ean has not attended school since second grade, when he went to school with multiple lacerations, prompting an investigation. Ean reportedly told GPD officers that the Stephens had “gotten high on drugs and whipped him repeatedly with a thorny vine/plant.” At the time, the Stephens told investigators that Ean was injured while playing, and the case was apparently dropped. Jamie reportedly told detectives that they don’t send him to school “to avoid false accusations.” She said she home-schools Ean, but after officers told her they found no computers or other educational materials in the apartment, she reportedly admitted that she does not home-school him.
The officer reported that the Stephens’ apartment is adequately furnished except for Ean’s room, which only has a mattress on the floor with one fitted sheet. His closet is reportedly empty, with only a few articles of clothing found in the room.
Jamie Stephens reportedly admitted to officers that she is a drug addict, mostly addicted to pills. She reportedly admitted purchasing drugs from Mejia.
Multiple witnesses in the neighborhood reportedly told officers that Ean has been physically abused and neglected by the Stephens.
Tiffany Helen Mejia, 40, has been charged with interfering with the custody of a child, knowingly making false statements, possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and trafficking in amphetamine. She was arrested on November 3 and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription; she also has a pending petit theft charge.
Jamie Stephens, 43, has been charged with child neglect without great bodily harm and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She has no local criminal history but has a warrant out of Georgia for fraud.
Tommy Stephens, 55, has been charged with child neglect without great bodily harm and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He has no local criminal history but has a warrant out of Georgia for fraud.
Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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