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A search in Florida for two missing children believed to be with their non-custodial mother ended Sunday night after a high-speed chase and the safe recovery of both children.
Margarita Gutierrez, 29, is now facing charges of interfering with custody in Volusia County, along with charges in Lake City—where she was apprehended Sunday night after a high-speed car chase—including burglary of a residence, fleeing and eluding, child abuse and resisting arrest, according to a statement from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
The two children, ages 11 and 5, were reported missing Friday by their grandmother—who has custody of both children—after Gutierrez failed to return the children as planned on Friday night.
Gutierrez had an unsupervised visit earlier in the day with the children at 12:30 p.m. but never showed up at 5:30 p.m. to return the children, authorities said.
She had lost custody of the children because of a “violent domestic living environment” involving her live-in boyfriend, authorities said.
Deputies went to Gutierrez’s home but were unable to find her or the children.
Both children were registered as missing and authorities reached out to the public for help to find them. Gutierrez was spotted several days later after property owners in north Florida reported seeing the 29-year-old walking from a home they owned Sunday night.
The home had been burglarized and the property owners quickly called authorities. When Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, they said Gutierrez failed to provide her identification and then fled in a vehicle with her children. She allegedly led authorities on a chase reaching speeds of100 mph while her children were still inside the car.
The pursuit was stopped after authorities saw the children inside and realized the car matched the description in a BOLO associated with the missing children.
Gutierrez's white 2019 Ford Fiesta was later spotted parked along a rural dead-end road. Although she tried to drive away, authorities were able to block the vehicle and apprehend Gutierrez, the sheriff’s office said.
The children were found unharmed. Their grandparents were traveling to Lake City to pick them up.
Gutierrez is now in custody in Columbia County, according to a statement from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
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