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Missing Toddler With Her Father In Chicago For Christmas, Police Say

KINGSHILL — A toddler reported missing on St. Croix is with her father in Illinois and not believed to be in danger, and Police Commissioner Ray Martinez said that investigators will continue working with mainland and federal law enforcement partners until the mother’s missing person report is resolved.

“We are still classifying it as a missing child. I know that folks are up in arms requesting and wanting to know why it was not listed as an abduction and it’s because based on our statute it does not meet the elements of a kidnapping and an abduction,” Martinez said.

Martinez clarified the situation Friday afternoon, after VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said on Thursday that Cataleya Lehlani DeBerry’s non-custodial father Brendon DeBerry had kidnapped her.

Brendon DeBerry

“It’s nothing like that,” Martinez said. “That was an error on his part.”

Derima also said that an Amber Alert had been issued for the child.

“The Amber Alert is in the national system, so if he is located in the states and officers come across the Amber Alert, then he can be detained up there,” Derima said.

Friday morning, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta reiterated that police had put out an Amber Alert.

The Amber Alert system for national notification of missing child cases is administered by the U.S. Justice Department, and one of the criteria for issuing an Amber Alert is that “The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.”

Brendon DeBerry says on Facebook that he is originally from Decatur, Alabama.

Martinez said police issued a Virgin Islands Alert locally about the missing person case, but no Amber Alert has been issued because the child is not in danger.

Martinez said Derima was referring to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, a database accessible only to law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.

Martinez said the child’s parents do not have a court-ordered custody agreement, and after conferring with the Virgin Islands Justice Department and federal partners, police determined that her father has not violated any local or federal laws.

Father and daughter on St. Croix.
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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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