() — A Texas woman accused of smuggling migrants kidnapped and held a baby for ransom, the Texas Department of Public Safety reports.
Special agents with the DPS, Texas troopers, the FBI and U.S. Border Patrol arrested Jenna Roark, 45, of El Paso, on charges of smuggling of persons and aggravated kidnapping. A 15-year-old was also taken into custody during the arrest Monday.
Roark’s charges stem from a traffic stop Sept. 16. Troopers reported discovering that Roark and the 15-year-old were smuggling migrants and traveling with an unidentified 18-month-old boy.
According to investigators, the baby was in poor health and rushed to a local hospital for treatment. While authorities tried to find his family, he was released to Child Protective Services.
Monday, the FBI’s El Paso office called DPS with information from Saint Petersburg, Florida, where a concerned mother reported that her baby was being held for ransom. After confirming the identity of the child and that it belonged to the Florida mother, agents tracked down Roark and the 15-year-old, placing them under arrest. They have both been booked into the El Paso County Jail and the El Paso County Juvenile Probation.
DPS West Texas Regional Director Jose Sanchez called the situation “unthinkable.” The FBI echoed his sentiment.
“Being caught in a kidnapping for ransom (KFR) extortion incident is frightening as it is, but when the subject kidnaps a small child to hold for collateral until the parent pays for their services, is utterly inhumane and heartless,” said Jeffery R. Downey, FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge. “Thankfully, the victim contacted the FBI St. Petersburg Field Office to report that her child was being held ransom.
“They immediately contacted our office to locate the subject and the child. Working with our partners at the Texas Department of Public Safety, we were able to share intelligence about the KFR, locate the child and assist in arresting the subject of this heartless kidnapping.”
The FBI urges any kidnapping for ransom victims or family members of victims to immediately call the FBI at 915-832-5000 or a local law enforcement agency.