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Police believe 4 children 'may be in danger' after mom took them on vacation and never returned

Posted at 5:43 AM, Dec 13, 2019

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Investigators issued an alert for a mother accused of abducting her four children after "recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe the children may now be in danger."

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) says it is searching for Melody Bannister and her four children, who were last seen in Moulton, Alabama on Aug. 20.

According to the SCSO, Bannister told deputies in June that her children had been abused by a family member. Child Protective Services later determined the allegations were unfounded, but before the investigation ended, Bannister and her four children left Virginia for a planned vacation to Alabama. They never returned.

The Stafford County Juvenile Domestic and Relations Court eventually granted custody of the children to their father. Bannister petitioned the court in Alabama and requested that custody be issued to her there, but courts ordered her to return her children to the father in Virginia.

Bannister did not comply and was last seen in Alabama on Aug. 20. She is currently wanted for one felony charge of Violation of a Court Order, four misdemeanor charges of Abduction, and one misdemeanor charge of Filing a False Police Report.

Bannister's four children are Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7.

"The U.S. Marshals Service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children became involved in the investigation several months ago," a spokesperson for the SCSO said.

Over the past several months, they have been seen at the following locations:
Birmingham, Alabama - 35201
Moulton, Alabama - 35650
Greenville, South Carolina - 29601
Shell Lake, Wisconsin - 54871
Madison, Wisconsin - 53701
Spooner, Wisconsin - 54801
Maryville, Tennessee - 37801
Knoxville, Tennessee - 37901
Lexington, Kentucky - 40502
Leadville, Colorado - 80429
Raleigh, North Carolina - 27601
Aransas Pass, Texas - 78335
Dallas, Texas - 75201
Corpus Christie, Texas - 78401

Law enforcement officials are asking anyone with information to contact: 1-877-WANTED2.

This story was originally published by WTVR in Richmond, Virginia.