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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Federal agents locate missing Bonners Ferry children in Louisiana

David R. McConnell warned his stepdaughter if she ever told police about how he impregnated her years ago when she was 14, he would take her other children and she would never see them again, according to court records.

McConnell, 52, whose last known address was in Bonners Ferry disappeared last year after a Spokane County judge ordered him and his wife, Susan McConnell, to return the stepdaughter’s three youngest children to their mother.

On Tuesday, federal agents with the U.S. Marshals Service found the McConnells in Louisiana and arrested them on charges of kidnapping, according to a news release.

The three children have been placed in protective custody while authorities work to reunite them with their mother, the release said.

Federal agents had tracked the couple through 11 states before finding them in Marksville, a town of about 6,000 people located southeast of Alexandria, Louisiana. During the arrest, agents seized more than 20 firearms.

“Child abductions are very serious crimes,” U.S. Marshal Craig Thayer said. “We could not wish for a better outcome than what happened in this case, with three children recovered safely and two suspects in custody.”

The twisted family history that culminated in this week’s arrest started years ago in Arizona.

According to court records, Spokane police Detective Christopher Bode in September started investigating a report that David and Susan McConnell were keeping their grandchildren away from their parents in violation of a court order.

That same month, Bode was contacted by sex crimes Detective David Moya from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona.

Moya told of an interview he conducted with David McConnell’s stepdaughter, who is not being named because she is alleged to have been a victim of child rape.

The stepdaughter told Moya that she is the biological daughter of Susan McConnell, who had later married David McConnell. When she was a young child, the family lived in Paulden, Arizona, a small town of about 5,000 people north of Prescott.

The stepdaughter said when she was about 12, in 1998 or 1999, David McConnell started molesting her, according to court records. The abuse escalated for 1 1/2 years until she became pregnant at age 14.

Asked what happened when she reported the abuse to Susan McConnell, the stepdaughter said her mother “claimed she was ‘screaming rape’ when it didn’t really happen,” court records state.

After she became pregnant, the McConnells “told her to claim it was her boyfriend’s,” Moya wrote. The stepdaughter said “Susan and David told her if she claimed that the baby was David’s they would disappear with the baby.”

The stepdaughter later married her boyfriend, whom she was dating when she became pregnant.

The young couple had three other children. But, the oldest boy “didn’t look anything like them,” Moya wrote.

Custody of the children became complicated after the stepdaughter briefly separated from her husband.

“She started to date someone new,” Moya wrote of the stepdaughter. “Susan found out that her new boyfriend was a sex offender and told (the stepdaughter) that she would call CPS if she didn’t sign over the children.”

As a result of the threat, the young mother agreed to sign over temporary custody of her three youngest children to the McConnells. She later reconciled with her husband.

In 2006, the stepdaughter, her husband, the four children and the McConnells all moved to Pend Oreille County. They moved around, at times living in Spokane County and Bonner County.

Eventually, the family split. The McConnells moved to Bonners Ferry in 2016 and took the three youngest children with them.

The young couple in 2017 began legal proceedings in Spokane County to regain custody of their children. A judge in March 2018 signed the final parenting plan awarding custody to the stepdaughter and her husband.

But they didn’t get their children back, despite efforts by local law enforcement.

The stepdaughter told Detective Moya that the last time she spoke to David McConnell was when he called her on Feb. 18, 2018.

“She said that (McConnell) started to question why she was trying to get her kids back,” Moya wrote. “He told her that she was never going to see her kids again.”

Moya wrote that he had collected DNA from the stepdaughter’s husband and her oldest son, whom she suspected was fathered by David McConnell. The DNA conclusively excluded the woman’s husband as the father.

As part of the search warrant filed in September, the detectives sought to have a judge order David McConnell to submit to a DNA test as part of the investigation seeking to charge him with third-degree rape.

“I believe that collecting David’s DNA will help show if he is the biological father” of the oldest boy, Moya wrote.

By late Thursday, the McConnells had not yet arrived at the Spokane County Jail.