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Since recent events are directly linked to a very public plea for help I made a few days ago, I think you all should know the details about how I located my missing grandchildren. I'm not at liberty to discuss the finer points of my daughter's slide, but I will say we started hearing rumors as long as a month ago. As people can have ulterior motives, we were willing to give her the benefit of doubt, but eventually we heard similar stories from a wide range of people, including family members and her boss of over a decade, and his was the message that initiated action. Except we couldn't get in touch with her, and neither could people who had always been able to in the past.

Certain themes were common: alleged criminal activity, the strong possibility of drug use, and the neglect of her kids, ages three, almost five, and nine. The eldest, we discovered, had not been enrolled in school for his fourth grade year (we are two months into the school year). We got in touch with the Las Vegas Police Department and Child Protective Services. But when they went to investigate, my daughter's mobile home was no longer even in the park where she'd lived for the past several years.

I was aware that she'd recently broken up with her latest. She alleges abuse, but we're never sure how much to believe. When she went silent, we contacted some family members who lived near her and eventually they convinced her to call with news: some guy "who cared the world for her" had promised a big job and a house back east, and she was on the road with her children. This start up company (no sign of it anywhere through Internet searches) had sent three vans for her and her stuff. She was driving one. Her kids were in another, with some company person at the wheel. She was headed for Maine and a new life.

Except she called from Georgia (she said). Except, after Georgia, she called from Colorado (she said). Where were the kids? We never heard them in the background. Somewhere nearby (she said). Nearby?

She was in deep trouble. That much was obvious. Our first thought was that whoever this shadowy new guy was, the goal just might be trafficking those three children, or holding them as ransom. We had no idea where they were or IF they were anymore. The police had done all they could up to that point. I wasn't about to sit around waiting to hear bad news. That's when I posted a plea on Facebook to please, please help us find my family.

My reach is long, and the Internet is fast. Within a couple of hours, information started coming in. It all pointed to Vegas, and the probability they were still in the area. Late that night, I got a call from my daughter, who in slurred, angry words, demanded I remove all those photos circulating on the Internet. My first question, of course, was where were her children? Somewhere nearby (she said). My plea, as she ranted, was to for the love of God let me come take them away from danger and to a secure place. Please remember that my daughter has three older children, all of whom went to relatives the last time she was sent to prison, and there they remain. In her mind, "losing" her children signifies the ultimate failure. She was not about to let me "make her lose" the other three.

Except a little later I got a call from Shadowy Guy, who told me I needed to come get them. They were in a seedy casino hotel, in the care of another guy who was strung out on ecstasy. The kids hadn't seen their mother in days. Shadowy Guy provided money every so often to pay for the room and feed them. Oh, and I'd better get on a plane right now because checkout was at eleven the next morning—warning they probably wouldn't be there after that.

I found a flight that would get us in at ten a.m. Arranged for a Gold Member rental car, to avoid the busy counter. My daughter Kelly and I flew down, having no real clue what to expect, but we went on faith, powered by the love and support that had rained down on us from family, friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers. We knocked on that door at 11:02 a.m.

Inside: Five-year-old still asleep. The other two watching TV, while the scruffy guy who was watching them slept. No sheets on the beds. Room filthy. The kids had the clothes on their backs, which were filthy. (We tossed them after immediately buying new ones.) The three-year-old was still in Pull-ups, and Scruffy Guy said she hadn't had a clean one for a couple of days. Obviously, the children were also dirty, hair matted, and smelly. Only one had real shoes, and their stench made us gag. The littlest had rubber sandals, way too big. The oldest had broken down slippers.

Scruffy Guy (who turned out to be the brother of my daughter's last, maybe abusive boyfriend) understood our concerns (he said). According to him, he hadn't seen Shadowy Guy or my daughter in days, and he was out of money, no way to pay for another day in the room, let alone feed the children. To his credit, he did seem to care about them, and they weren't afraid to be with him. In fact, though they'd only known him for a couple of months, they called him "Dad." But they were so happy to see us and wanted to go to Grandma's, so we loaded them into the rental car…

More to come.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Liz Harrington
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, Ellen... I am just in tears reading this. I can't imagine what you went through, emotionally, in the process of searching for and finding them. My heart goes out to you and those precious children. Thank GOD you found them!!
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
Oh Ellen
I am in tears too reading this - thank goodness, thank God, thank God, thank God, you followed your heart and saved those kids. We can only do what we can do in the face of this horrible disease, and you did everything right. So happy they are safe and with you. Sending prayers, love, and blessings.

Ann Angel
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
Dear Ellen,
I'm so sorry for what you're going through even as I think how beautiful it is that you were able to reach out and bring your three grandkids home. You've been in my thoughts and prayers since I saw the post that you were looking for your daughter. I'll continue to keep your entire family in prayers. Hopefully your daughter will discover a moment when enough is enough and seek some help. Meanwhile, all we can do is pray and hope for the best.
Hugs, Ann Angel
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
Ellen, I wished I lived closer so I can give you a huge hug. After you posted the photo of your missing daughter, I've been thinking about you. I'm so glad you found your grandchildren safe. You've been in my prayers.
Amanda Tucker
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
This saddens me at the deepest level that children go through these things. I'm happy that you were able to recover them before something worse could affect them and hopefully this event will not stay instilled in their innocent minds.
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry you and your family have to go through this. It's tough. I've read your books, absorbing the stories like they were the sunlight that fed me. But it only just occured to me that what you were saying really happens. That this tragedy could be real. Now, not only are you my hero through your written words, but through your personal life as well. You are an amazing person. Thanks. And I hope everything turns out well.

Edited at 2013-10-09 07:04 pm (UTC)
Stephanie Ferguson
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
Sigh of Relief

I cannot imagine your angst when you realized the potential danger nor your relief when you found them...and,yet your daughter is out there still.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you move forward taking each day as it comes - recognizing its blessings and accepting its challenges.

Jackie Kessler
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:15 pm (UTC)
Thank God you found them, Ellen. **hugs**
S Jeaux DeVine
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:34 pm (UTC)
Oh Ellen:
What a blessing you are for your grandchildren. God Bless you in this endeavor and I pray for the best.
Chasidy Henderson
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
im sorry you had to go through that hope all works out and i hope your daughter gets help because she really needs to be a mom it sounds alot like she hasnt been a mom to any of her kids and the baby in the same pull up for days thats horrible i couldnt imagine! thats so scary but yea she does sound lke the kristina you have based your books on i wish yall the best <3
Ishta Mercurio-Wentworth
Oct. 9th, 2013 08:02 pm (UTC)
In Tears
Ellen, I am in tears. I am so sorry that your beautiful grandchildren went through this experience - no child, no person, should ever go through what they have obviously been through. And for you to have to search for them that way... No human should ever have to worry for the safety of their family, especially little ones. Hopefully, this will have made your grandchildren stronger, and you will be able to keep them safe and help them process all that has happened to them. And for your daughter to have gone in this direction... My heart goes out to you.
Laura Shovan
Oct. 9th, 2013 08:30 pm (UTC)
Ellen, thank you for the update. I'm so sorry that your family is going through this, but grateful to know that you have your grandchildren and that they are safe.

A member of my extended family suffered from mental illness and would, in the 1970s, dump her children off with friends and family when she was in jail or off on the next scheme. Family did eventually step in, just as you are doing. Sending love your way.
Oct. 9th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you have the children, and that they are safe in your loving arms.
Mindi Rench
Oct. 9th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
Though my situation as a child was not near as harrowing as the experience you describe above, my grandmother several times rescued my brother and I from a mother who could not care for us.

My grandmother was my guardian angel, just as you are now for yours. If it weren't for my grandparents and the fact that they watched out for us, cared for us, and made sure we were safe, I'm not sure where I would have ended up.

My heart goes out to those little ones and to the rest of your family.
Oct. 9th, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
Sending you strength and love.
Jenifer Ferreyra Brindis
Oct. 9th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that you found them and that they were okay, and being cared for! I'll be praying and keeping you in mind hoping that everything gets better! Stay strong, we love you and care for you and your family! Best of wishes! I wish I could do more to help..
Oct. 10th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC)
Asking the universe to send you strength and grace.

May all go well. Thank God you found them.
Ken Babbitt
Oct. 10th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC)
Thank God
Truth is stranger than fiction, no slant against you and your writing, the human spirit is able to withstand so much and children are so strong. Thank God they have you and people who do love them, Good luck with all of this and I hope you and the kids will live with a life full of love and happiness
Alyson Greene
Oct. 10th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
So glad to hear you found your grandchildren and they're safe! Sorry you and your family have had o go through this. I hope things get better soon!
Keisha Martin
Oct. 10th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
So happy it was a happy ending for your grand kids and I pray your daughter will unleash herself from the demons of addiction and other issues.
Nancy L Edler
Oct. 10th, 2013 01:25 am (UTC)
Your story was shared with me by a very old friend... He asked for thoughts & prayers for you to find daughter & the babies. He also posted this link... I don't know you or your family but I feel you should know how much I admire your strength, courage & conviction! Thank God those babies have you! I will keep you & your family in my prayers... Nancy

Edited at 2013-10-10 01:25 am (UTC)
Oct. 10th, 2013 01:25 am (UTC)

I think of you and the children every single day. Love and light to you all.


Michelle Cusolito
Oct. 10th, 2013 02:58 am (UTC)
I'm just so sorry to hear this. I'm glad you found them safe. I hope your daughter is safe, too.
AnnettaJayne Harvell
Oct. 10th, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
You go Mama-Bear. I pray for you, your grandchildren and your daughter. I know you're taking care of those grandbabies but you are still in my thoughts and prayers. I am also praying for your daughter. Blessings to you sweet Ellen... you are a Steel Magnolia! Sending you love from Texas!

Helen Lavoie
Oct. 10th, 2013 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry, but commend your determination
I'm so sorry for this whole ordeal, but I'm so glad you were able to find the children. You have always struck me as a very strong woman, and this journey definitely proves that. All of your grandchildren are truly blessed to have you as a grandmother. It's unfortunate that their mother is how she is, but thank God that you're the complete opposite. Good luck with everything, and I hope it all works out for everyone involved.
Kat Blanton
Oct. 10th, 2013 03:03 pm (UTC)
Dear Ellen,

I have read every book you've published, have two signed, and love your work. I can tell just by your writing that you have been through things such as this and understand when other people go through similar situations. You seem like an incredible woman and are an inspiration to women everywhere. You say what some authors don't have the balls to say. I just had a baby about three months ago and I finally understand that mother's love that you obviously have for your grandchildren and daughter. You have to go through the trials and tribulations in life to get to the good parts, as you have taught me through your writing. Stay strong Ellen, you are amazing. You and your family are in my thoughts <3
Oct. 12th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
My heart goes out to those kids. And I hope they get everything they deserve in life. To go through what thy have in their short life is so sad. They are truly blessed to have you for a grandma. Give those kids the love they never got from their mom.
Oct. 14th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thank God they have you. You've been in my thoughts - xo!
Oct. 29th, 2013 02:00 pm (UTC)
As someone who has not reared three grandaughters, this episode shook me. We were lucky to obtain conservatorship of the kids and make their lives a bit more predictable. Your determination and your evident love for these kids are exactly what your grandkids need to see. May it fill them with resolve, too.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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