Missing children found in N.C.; mother arrested

Yovonda Denise Bennafield
Yovonda Denise Bennafield
Sommer La-Ruesh Pannell
Sommer La-Ruesh Pannell

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Two children believed to have been abducted from a Newport News gas station have been found Monday morning.

Police tell us five-year-old Ta'vyion Blockett and six-year-old Dante Blockett were found in Halifax, North Carolina — about a two hour drive from Newport News.

Yovonda Denise Bennafield, 32, of the 300 block of Hilltop Drive in Newport News has been arrested and charged with two counts each of felony child neglect and contributing to the delinquency of a minor (misdemeanor).

Bennafield is the mother of the two boys that were the victims of the abduction in Newport News on Sunday. The charges stem from Bennafield leaving her children unattended in her car for several hours and allowing a complete stranger to take her children. She was taken into custody without incident at a relative's home in Newport News about 1:00 p.m. today and was placed in the custody of the Newport News City Jail.

Bennafield's children have been placed in the care of a relative.

Police said the children first went with their mother to the gas station where she works. Then Bennafield told them a woman walked into the store trying to find a way to North Carolina.

She made a deal with the woman, saying, if she watches her boys during her shift, she would take her after she got off work.

The woman didn't come back at the time they agreed, and that's when the missing children alert went out.

At approximately 2:30 A.M. Monday morning, detectives were notified that the gold Ford Explorer had been located by law enforcement in Halifax, North Carolina, as the result of an Amber Alert. The children were found to be safe and in good condition. They were temporarily placed in the custody of Social Services. The suspect was taken into custody.

Warrants were obtained charging Sommer La-Ruesh Pannell, 26, of the 2200 block of Apache Street in Greensboro, N.C., with two counts of abduction and one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Pannell is being held in North Carolina as a fugitive. Detectives will be seeking to have Pannell extradited back to Newport News.

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