A family was saved by members of the Sweetwater Police Department in a kidnapping incident that began in Sweetwater on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 and ended in Frederick, Okla. on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011.
According to Detective Lance Richburg, the Sweetwater Police Department received a call on Saturday from a person who witnessed a woman fighting a man before he put her into his vehicle that also contained their three children. The SPD had no knowledge of who the victim was or the alleged kidnapper, but had only a description of the two and the vehicle. Later that evening, the alleged kidnapper had the woman — his estranged wife — call the Sweetwater Police Department to tell authorities that she was okay and that she had not been kidnapped, but had gone willingly with her estranged husband.
On Monday, the Sweetwater Police Department received a call from one of the victim's family members stating that they had received a text saying that she and her children has indeed been kidnapped and was near Amarillo. According to the victim, she had met her estranged husband in the local K-Mart parking lot on Saturday so that he could see the children. That day Sweetwater saw plentiful rain, so he had put the children into his vehicle to shield them from the rain before he allegedly forced their mother into his vehicle.
Sweetwater Police Department officers then began tracking their location by a cell phone ping. The technology allows a cellular telephone company to track a person based on their travels in real time. The pings come from a specific tower when a call or text is made or received by the owner of a cellular telephone. Mobile devices, when they are within range, constantly let cell towers and the mobile switching center, which is connected to multiple towers, know of their location. The mobile switching center uses the location information to ensure that incoming calls and messages are routed to the tower nearest to the user.
If a subscriber is unable to get service, this location information is usually purged from the mobile switching center, but some location information may remain in call detail records. Some mobile operators may store the most recent communication between a device and a mobile switching center for a certain period of time, usually 24 hours. If the mobile subscriber is still within cell phone range, authorities can track his or her general movement by following the sequence of towers the phone has contacted or pinged and if the cell phone goes out of range or runs out of battery power, the mobile operator may be able to use the last recorded location before the cell phone either lost its signal or lost power. The most useful information for locating people when they are lost comes when someone has initiated or received a call or text message on their phone. Mobile operators keep records of these events for billing purposes in what is known as a call data record, or CDR and they can go back to these records to get a historical account of the cell phone’s location.
When investigators pinged the phone it was located east of Amarillo on Interstate 40. Investigators also utilized other police and sheriff's departments and learned that the alleged kidnapper had a previous address in Armore, Okal. According to Det. Richburg, the pings continued along the Texas/Oklahoma border and Richburg even talked to the alleged kidnapper — identified as Sylvester Ramon of Fisher County — and the conversation gave Richburg concerns that the mother and children were in danger, as he had made threats towards the family in the past. Ramon told Richburg that they were in Lubbock, not knowing that officers had been tracking their whereabouts.
A break came for officers when they received an "up-to-the minute" ping from the mobile phone, allowing officers to call authorities near Frederick, Okla. According to Richburg, the vehicle was stopped on State Highway 70 about 15 minutes after the last ping by sheriff's deputies. According to Det. Richburg, Ramon forced his estranged wife to give the officers a false name, but then let authorities know who she was after being reassured by Det. Richburg over the phone that she and the children would be safe.
The evening, around 11 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10, Det. Richburg and Lieutenant Randy Hanes departed Sweetwater for Frederick, Okla. to pick the family up and bring them home to Sweetwater. Ramon was arrested and will be extradited to Nolan County Jail at a later date to face kidnapping charges.
According to Det. Richburg, many officers involved helped in getting the family home safe including SGT Todd Jones who took the initial call and gathered information that eventually led to Ramon's arrest and communications officer Belindia Seale, who was also instrumental in getting information to all of the proper agencies.