Chesterfield mom says amber alert that brought son safely home almost didn’t happen

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It was an example of the amber alert working exactly the way it was meant to work. 3-year-old Cayden Merchant was reported missing Tuesday night. The man accused of taking him was his father, 40-year-old James king.

Their photos were plastered on TV and across social media. Within 45 minutes Cayden was found safe, and King was arrested and charged with abduction. But Cayden’s mother, who reported him missing, says that alert almost never happened.

“The first set of police officers told us they couldn’t do anything, it’s a civil matter,” said Cayden’s mother Carrie Merchant.

Merchant says after calling Chesterfield County Police, she explained that Cayden’s father had no custody over the child. However, she says she was told she would have to file paperwork in court to get her son back as it wasn’t a criminal offense. Merchant says she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Is there any justice? I mean really, he’s not on the birth certificate,” said Merchant.

She says a roommate called Petersburg Police to try and get help.

“And they told him no it’s a criminal matter, call and speak to a supervisor at Chesterfield,” said Merchant.

It wasn’t until after she called Chesterfield back and spoke to a supervisor that things started moving.

“We wasted probably about 45 minutes there,” said Merchant.

We reached out to Chesterfield Police and asked what happened. They tell us when Merchant called back and spoke to a sergeant, the mistake was immediately recognized and an investigation began. Officials say supervisors are addressing the initial error which was made by an officer who is still in training.

Meanwhile, Merchant is just relieved her son is home.

“I’m happy that my son’s back. Thank you, thank you, everybody that shared and brought my little boy home,” said Merchant.

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