A Virginia mother who had been on the run for months with her four children has been arrested in Indiana.
Early Wednesday morning in Plainfield, Indiana, Melody Bannister was taken into custody by investigators following the nationwide search by U.S. Marshals that she had been the subject of.
According to the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, Bannister was booked on a warrant out of Stafford County, Virginia.
Bannister was found inside of her vehicle around 2:30 a.m. at a Speedway gas station on Perry Road. Her four children were also found to be inside the vehicle with her, and are now in the custody of the Department of Child Services (DCS).
Police began investigating Bannister in June after she informed the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) in Virginia that her children were being abused. Police conducted a joint investigation with Child Protective Services and determined that the allegations were unsupported by evidence.
Shortly after the conclusion of the joint investigation, Bannister left for vacation to Alabama with her four kids, claiming that she was saving them from sex trafficking by their father and grandfather.
In July, a Virginia court cleared the men of those allegations and granted the father custody.
After attempting to petition in Alabama court for custody of the children, the Alabama courts ordered Bannister to return the children to their father, at which point she was not seen for some time.
Bannister departed from Alabama, remaining on the run. Police issued an alert, as they suspected the children may be in danger.
“They are unable to take care of themselves, they don’t have any means to take care of them. Melody doesn’t have means,” said SCSO Detective, James Wright.
Bannister had been spotted in multiple states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas.
“We’ve had sightings of them in South Carolina, we’ve had sightings of them in Tennessee,” said Detective Wright.
She was wanted on a felony charge of violation of a court order, four misdemeanor abduction charges and a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report. She’s now facing charges for parental kidnapping of a minor and abduction by parent.
Bannister is being held at the Hendricks County Jail following Wednesday morning’s arrest.
“Melody basically started living as a fugitive, an American outlaw, trying to keep her children safe from what she was convinced was a human trafficking ring,” said Sam McLure, Bannister’s attorney. “Melody is an amazingly resilient woman and she’s passionate about protecting her children and seeing her children thrive.”
Since Bannister is facing charges out of Virginia and not Indiana, she will be extradited. She does have the option to refuse, but if she were to do so, a government warrant would be filed.