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2-year-old girl found safe

Parents arrested in Iowa

Posted: May 21, 2018 5:04 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Provided by the CPD/

A poster provided by the Camden Police Department, now stamped with “Found” for 2-year-old Dakota Ray, and “Arrested” for her parents, William and Jessica Ray.

Two-year-old Dakota Ray is safe more than a month after being declared missing on April 15. Her parents are under arrest after being located in Decorah, Iowa, on Thursday afternoon.

The Camden Police Department (CPD) listed Dakota as missing even though she was thought to be with her parents, William Eugene Ray, 46, and Jessica Louise Ray, 36, both of Maggie Avenue, Camden.

The case actually began April 12 and involved the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office. According to a CPD incident report, county deputies called Department of Social Services (DSS) workers to the Plantation Motel on U.S. 1 in east Camden due to the Ray’s alleged methamphetamine use endangering the little girl. DSS reportedly set up a safety plan for Dakota with William Ray’s brother, Johnny.

The CPD later arrested Johnny Lynn Ray, 46, also of Maggie Avenue, for unlawful neglect for allowing Dakota to be with her father unsupervised because he claimed -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had left Dakota and William Ray at DSS’ offices on East DeKalb Street. Officers then charged him with being an accessory before the fact for grand larceny of a motor vehicle. They did so because Johnny Ray reportedly admitted to taking William to the Dollar General in east Camden in order to steal a license tag and then drove him to bondswoman Donna Davis’ office on Bramblewood Plantation Road where William stole a gold-colored Ford Aerostar Van he had put up as collateral for bond in an earlier case.

William and Jessica Ray then left the state with Dakota, which led the CPD to declare her as missing.

According to a copy of a Winneshiek County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) incident report obtained by the Chronicle-Independent, deputies conducted a traffic stop on the gold Ford van being driven by Dakota’s father a little after 5 p.m. Thursday. The reporting deputy said they stopped the van because William Ray was wanted on various charges, and because the female passenger -- Jessica Ray -- was reported missing as was the juvenile female in the back seat: Dakota.

The deputy reported William Ray’s South Carolina driver’s license was suspended, leading to his arrest, and noted that Jessica Ray was “not valid” to drive. Because the van was being impounded, the deputy inventoried the car and found a mustard-colored bag on the passenger side front floor that contained a clutch purse. The purse, the deputy wrote, had been reported stolen by the Le Mars (Iowa) Police Department, about 260 miles west of Decorah. The purse, which belonged to a Hinton, Iowa, woman, reportedly contained identification cards, a Social Security card, gift cards and a credit card belonging to the victim.

The WCSO provided more details in the form of a post on its Facebook page that had been copied to the office’s website. It said dispatchers received a call Thursday of a possible sighting of the Ray family at a local Walmart. Dispatchers then received a second call saying the van was traveling just north of Decorah. Deputies managed to locate and stop the van, ultimately charging William Ray with:

• felony theft of a vehicle;

• operating a non-registered vehicle;

• no valid driver’s license;

• failure to provide proof of financial liability (insurance); and

• fifth-degree theft.

Like her husband, deputies also charged Jessica Ray with fifth-degree theft in connection with the purse stolen from the Hinton, Iowa, woman.

The WCSO said William and Jessica Ray were transported to the Winneshiek County Jail, where William Ray awaited extradition back to Camden. Jessica Ray’s status was unclear.

“Two-year-old Dakota Ray was placed into the custody of the (Iowa) Department of Human Services where she is being cared for,” WCSO officials said in the post.

The WCSO also posted that deputies had arrested Tami Linne, 56, of Bluffton, Iowa, and charged her with aggravated misdemeanor accessory to a felony in connection to harboring a fugitive.

“Linne willingly and knowingly harbored wanted felon William Ray and his missing family from South Carolina,” WCSO officials said in the Facebook post copied to its website.

Bluffton is several miles northwest of Decorah in Winneshiek County. The Decorah Journal, publishing on DecorahNewspapers.com, reported that the Rays had been staying in Bluffton before they were apprehended.

Since going missing in mid-April, several people had reported seeing the Rays or their Ford Van. Several days after their disappearance, a woman reported seeing the family at a gas station in North Carolina. The CPD also received word of several sightings in North Carolina, as well as the upper Midwest and Great Plains regions. On Thursday, but ahead of word that the Ray family had been located, CPD Chief Joe Floyd said someone reported seeing them in the Minneapolis, Minn., area.

The CPD issued a press release Thursday morning about Dakota being safe and her parents’ arrest. In the release, the CPD thanked the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Department’s Fusion Center, along with Richland County and the Live PD television show, saying they all created a network of information and continued to disseminate sighting and tips to move the case forward.

“We send our sincere thanks to all citizens who shared our story on social media and called in with tips (with extra cheers to North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa),” CPD officials said in the press release. “You have been our eyes and ears and Dakota would not have been located without you. We also thank our fellow brothers and sisters in blue, law enforcement in the states of North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota, as you put your boots on the ground and acted on our behalf for the safety of this child. Decorah Police Department, Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Department, and Le Mars Police Department, you made this case and we are forever grateful! Stop by the Camden Police Department if you’re ever in South Carolina!”

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