New Bedford father charged with child sexual abuse apprehended in Conn. | #childabuse | #children | #kids

A fugitive who allegedly took his son and daughter with him last week when he fled New Bedford while facing charges of sexually abusing the children was captured in Connecticut on Friday afternoon, officials said.

The children were safely recovered and placed in the custody of Connecticut’s Youth Service Bureau, the Bristol district attorney’s office said in a statement Friday.

Leon Mejia-Vicente, 46, of New Bedford, faces multiple charges of rape and sexual abuse of a child issued in felony warrants on June 8, according to the district attorney’s office.

Soon after the warrants were issued, Mejia-Vicente fled, taking a 5-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl with him and leading to an investigation involving local, state, and federal law enforcement, according to the Friday statement.

That statement did not identify the children, but on Thursday the DA’s office said they were Mejia-Vicente’s 5-year-old son, Hector Mejia-Saquic, and 17-year-old daughter, Petronila Mejia-Saquic, also called Marta Saquic, who had been living with him on Madeira Avenue in New Bedford.

Officials said the family had strong ties to the local Guatemalan community and all three members did not speak English.

Mejia-Vicente and his son had not been seen since the warrants were issued, but his daughter went to school in New Bedford on Tuesday, leaving after her first period class and being seen at a couple of locations in the city later in the day, officials said.

Investigators found Mejia-Vicente and the children in Willimantic, Conn., about 3 p.m. Friday, took him into custody, and placed the children in the care of the state’s Youth Service Bureau, officials said.

Officials said New Bedford’s Central American community and police Detective Samuel-Algarin Mojica, who serves as a liaison to the community, had been integral in the effort to find Mejia-Vicente and the children.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said he was pleased that Mejia-Vicente “was apprehended without incident and the children were located and are now in the custody of” Connecticut officials.

“This case highlights the importance of quick action by various agencies working together to locate the fugitive and the missing children,” Quinn said in the statement. “When a child goes missing the early stages of the investigation are critical to safely locating them. I am grateful for the cooperation of the Central American community in New Bedford, that was critical to apprehending the suspect.”

New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira thanked “the various law enforcement agencies involved with this situation which could have ended tragically.”

“This is an outstanding example of partnership that stresses how critical it is to have community cooperation,” Oliveira said in the statement.

There was no attorney listed for Mejia-Vicente in court records.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.

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