Seay charged with kidnapping

By: 
Ron Burtz

The woman who became the subject of a statewide Amber Alert in late May has been bound over for trial on two counts of first degree kidnapping. Katrina Seay, 37, of Rapid City, appeared at a preliminary hearing Tuesday, June 15, in Custer County where evidence was presented before Seventh Circuit Judge Todd Hyronimus alleging she had illegally taken her two children from a Custer daycare May 29 and led law enforcement on a 350-mile chase before being apprehended hours later at a farm north of Mitchell.
Appearing in court in a red and white striped Pennington County Jail jumpsuit and represented by her court-appointed attorney, Ellery Grey of Rapid City, Seay listened as Custer County state’s attorney Tracy Kelley called four witnesses to testify of her involvement in the alleged kidnapping.
The first witness called was Shelly Furchner, a Family Services specialist supervisor for the state Department of Social Services (DSS). Furchner testified she had been overseeing the state custody of 9-year-old Zyriah Seay and her younger brother, Jeremiah, since the children were turned over to DSS by California authorities May 6. She said the children had been taken into custody by California Child Protective Services following a domestic assault between Seay and her then- boyfriend April 28.
Under cross examination, Furchner told the court Seay had been jailed in connection with the altercation and wasn’t comfortable leaving the children with the boyfriend.
Furchner said she had not personally discussed the April incident with the children, but relayed the statements of a California social worker to whom the children had said they didn’t like being around the violence and drug use in the home.
Testifying that Seay was to only have supervised visits with the children through DSS, Furchner said the mother was made aware of that fact at an advisory hearing May 20. She also said Seay had missed a scheduled visit the day before and that no visit was scheduled for the day of the alleged abduction.
Next to take the stand was Racheal Cheeseman, who works at the daycare from which the children were taken. She said she helps her mother, Joy Comstock, run the daycare out of a home on Harbach Lane.  
Cheeseman testified she was watching six children—including the two Seay children—that day by herself. She said she was inside the house and the Seay children and another girl were playing outdoors between a trampoline and a play structure. Around 11 a.m. she said the third child came in and reported there was a dispute over a ball, so Cheeseman sent the girl outside to tell the other two to come into the house. The girl returned a few minutes later and reported the Seay children were nowhere to be found. Cheeseman said after sending the child back out to double check and then searching the area herself, she called her mother and eventually the sheriff’s office was called.
Cheeseman testified she had seen an “abnormal” dark-colored car that drove by the house slowly a few minutes earlier on the dead-end street.
S.D. Highway Patrolman Louis Plunkett took the stand to chronicle his pursuit of Seay’s green Chevy Cruze from mile marker 299 on I-90 to its final destination near Mitchell. Plunkett testified that at times on the chase through Mitchell, Seay’s vehicle was traveling at speeds of near 95 mph in 35 mph zones.
Plunkett said he arrived at the scene of the felony arrest to see Seay walking backwards toward the officers. He said he interacted with the two children who were still in the back seat of the Cruze briefly to give each a teddy bear supplied by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, but did not question them. However, the trooper said he observed the children to be “frightened and crying.”
The final witness was agent Jeff Kollars of the state Division of Criminal Investigation who interviewed Seay at the Mitchell Police Station following her arrest. Kollars, who is stationed in Brookings, said he was called in Saturday afternoon to be on standby as a negotiator in the case. Kollars said he was told by the Highway Patrol they believed Seay’s car had run out of gas, which led to the stop in rural Davidson County.
He said at that point he transitioned to an investigative and administrative role and was the primary interviewer of Seay. Kollars said Seay told him the situation had started the day before the alleged abduction when she was informed by DSS her supervised visits with her children were being suspended.
Kollars testified Seay told him she had “lost it” when that happened. He said the reason for the suspension of visits was that DSS believed Seay had placed an internet-connected GizmoWatch into her daughter’s backpack during a visit. Investigators believe that is how Seay tracked the children to the daycare.
He said Seay had told him that when she arrived outside the daycare the children had run to the car, gotten in and “told her to drive.”
She also told him the passenger in her car at the time of the arrest, Matthew Cabaniss, was not with her in Custer, but she had stopped in Rapid City to pick him up later.
Under cross examination by Grey, Kollars said Seay had told him Cabaniss was telling her not to stop during the pursuit and had “grabbed” the steering wheel several times in the flight across the state.
Grey called no witnesses at the hearing, but protested the $30,000 cash or surety bond under which Seay is being held in jail. He said the bond hearing had been held before Seay had legal counsel and requested the bond be reduced, stating the defendant wants to live in Rapid City.
Kelley, on the other hand, told the court she was “extremely concerned” that Seay was a flight risk. The state’s attorney said “she has a history of this behavior,” citing a 2008 incident in which Seay was arrested in Kansas after allegedly kidnapping her two older sons from state custody in Lead and saying there was information from California social services that Seay had done something similar there.
Judge Hyronimus denied the request for a bond reduction and set a non-evidentiary hearing for Thursday, June 24.

 

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