Missing East Ridge infant found safe, unharmed in Whitfield Coun - WSMV News 4

Missing East Ridge infant found safe, unharmed in Whitfield County

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A missing child from East Ridge was found unharmed after an alleged kidnapping early Monday morning.

Channel 3 was the only crew there as the mother, Susan Cocke, was reunited with her six-month-old son, Jeffery, after the baby had been missing for nearly 12 hours.

According to East Ridge police Cpl. Robert Wade, Joseph Franklin, Jr., 46, is the child's non-custodial father. Police said Franklin took the boy from his mother's East Ridge home around 12:30 a.m. Monday while the mother was out buying medicine for the sick child. The infant was left at the home with Franklin's sister.

"The father came by, took the child, and stepped outside with the child and left," Wade said. "The witness [Franklin's sister] didn't realize any issue with the father having the child."

The infant was found safe with relatives at a home in Whitfield County, Georgia. But police said this isn't the first time the suspect has taken the boy from Tennessee without permission.

"At the time this happened, he had a warrant out of East Ridge for custodial interference," said Wade. "And now he also has a warrant for kidnapping."

Franklin's sister told police she was unaware of the custody situation. Neighbors told Channel 3 they've often seen the man in the neighborhood.

When Cocke realized her son was missing, police said she followed Franklin to I-75 before police told her to stop following. The TBI then issued an endangered child alert.

"He is known to carry firearms and has made threats against [Cocke] in the past," Wade said.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, investigators found Franklin's car at a relative's home near Dalton, in Whitfield County. The baby was inside the home with relatives. When Franklin drove away, officers were able to stop him and take him to jail.

Franklin is charged with fleeing a police officer along with multiple traffic violations. He's facing additional charges in East Ridge once a Georgia judge agrees to send him back to Tennessee.

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