CEDAR CITY — The Utah Highway Patrol trooper who made the traffic stop that led to the safe recovery of two young girls in Parowan Thursday evening said he was on the lookout for other types of vehicles besides those matching the description given by dispatchers.
Trooper Adam Gibbs said the girls were suspected to have been abducted by their non-biological father out of Riverside, California, on Tuesday, following a verbal altercation with the girls’ mother.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, dispatchers in Richfield were alerted to a “ping” of the suspect’s cellphone near Salina.
“At the time, we were told that the vehicle they were in was possibly a Cadillac, an older model Cadillac or a black Tahoe,” Gibbs told reporters during a news conference in Cedar City Friday.
Gibbs said as the phone continued to ping at locations along westbound I-70, two UHP troopers in the area were waiting and watching for the suspect vehicle.
‘Those are very distinctive vehicles. They never saw them, so we figured they probably were in a different vehicle. We assumed they were probably in a rental,” Gibbs said. “So we continued pinging the phone. The next ping they had was south of Beaver. I got stationary at mile marker 83 watching for it.”
Police in Riverside had sent photographs of suspect Joshua Adle and his father, along with the two girls, identified 18-month-old Darla Yonko and 8-month-old Emma Yonko.
As he was watching vehicles pass by at mile marker 83, Gibbs said he spotted a driver he believed to be Adle’s father, Frank Marks, driving a white Dodge Caravan with California license plates.
“As it passed, I clearly and distinctly observed the grandpa was driving the vehicle …” Gibbs said. “I pulled out on the interstate, caught up to the vehicle, pulled up next to it, looked … and was able to clearly identify it was Marks as the driver … I also observed the Adle subject in the middle row.”
Gibbs said he decided to wait for backup to come at mile marker 78, the northern Parowan exit of 1-15. The driver of the van decided to take that exit, he said.
At that point, Gibbs said he initiated a felony traffic stop on the off-ramp. He explained why he made the stop there, even though backup had not yet arrived.
“When they took Exit 78, the last thing I wanted to do was get into a shootout in the middle of the parking lot,” he said. “Because you never know what they’re doing and you never know what they’re coming up with. My guess is they were trying to get to the TA (truck stop) to kind of blend in with everyone. My biggest concern was that I’m getting closer to more public.”
Shortly thereafter, the three adult suspects were arrested and booked into jail, while the two girls were safely taken into protective custody.
“DCFS came and took them for the night,” Gibbs said. “The mother, I believe, was en route with the FBI to come and be reunited with her kids.”
Gibbs said there were some cultural barriers involved in the situation, as the subjects are believed to be gypsies.
For Gibbs, it was all in a day’s work in a job that he enjoys.
“I like to make a difference. That’s what I like to do,” he said. “I make a difference, get unsafe drivers off the road, that kind of stuff. I really enjoy the job.”
Gibbs said the situation resonated with him personally, as the father of a 2-year-old girl himself.
“She’s going to turn three next month, so it drives it a little bit home. I can’t imagine if she was taken from home, what I would do.”
He said that spotting the suspects in the vehicle was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“Without the pictures, I don’t think we’d have been able to locate them,” he said.
Gibbs said patrolling the interstate is often “like a needle in a haystack to try to figure out which cars to stop and to be able to investigate what we can, and to find what we can.”
Adle and Franks were booked into Iron County Jail Tuesday evening, along with the third adult in the van, a woman identified as Angela Yonko. They each face possible felony child kidnapping charges. The exact relationships the subjects had with each other and with the girls was not immediately made clear.
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