Missing Baby Found Safe, Search for Mother Continues, Family Says

Family members say an 11-month-old child who authorities believed may have been abducted from Streator, Illinois, along with his mother, was dropped off at a family friend's home over the weekend, but the search for the boy's mother continued early Monday morning. 

Mindy Stratton, the mother of missing person Kayla Stratton, said her grandson Paul Merritte was left in his car seat on an acquaintance's porch late Sunday evening. 

The news was confirmed by the LaSalle County Sheriff's office late Monday morning, who said the baby was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Streator for a health evaluation. The sheriff's office also said DCFS was called and assisted with the legal transfer of custody of the child to his grandparents. 

The search for Kayla Stratton remained ongoing, police said. 

Stratton, 24, and her 11-month-old son were last seen around 11 p.m. on Friday, according to the sheriff's office.

Authorities said in a missing persons alert that the child was "consensually taken" by his father, 33-year-old Clarence Merritte, who is a suspect in the case. 

LaSalle County Sheriff's Office
(L-R) Clarence Merritte, 33; Paul Merritte, 11 months; and Kayla Stratton, 24

According to police, Stratton was in a car in the 1900 block of East 1st Street as the suspect chased her in another vehicle, ramming her car multiple times and forcing her off the road, where she crashed into a utility pole.

The suspect then struck and took Stratton from her car by the hair, officials said, forcing her into his vehicle, which was later found abandoned several blocks west of the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the LaSalle County Sheriff's office at (815) 433-2161.

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