Inside LADA

June 10, 2021: Child Abduction Unit Reunites Father, Daughter

Senior Investigators Rodriguera and Albo watch Herb Legall reunite with daughter.Clutching a fuzzy stuffed bunny, the 5-year-old girl peered at her father she had not seen since she was 2. His worries that she wouldn't remember him quickly vanished.

“I love you, daddy,” she said before rushing into his arms.

“I broke out in tears,” Herb Legall III said, recounting the April 29 reunion. “It was an awesome moment, and one I had been waiting for, for years.”

Herb Legall hugs his daughterThe successful reunion was the result of the hard work of the office’s Child Abduction Unit. Senior Investigator Jennifer Martin led the case. Sgt. Andy Le and Senior Investigator Claudia Rodriguera, who comprise the unit with Martin were at the recovery, along with Senior Investigators Steve Lasiter, Bob Anderson, Vince Albo and Lou Santaella.

The recovery occurred at the home of the girl’s mother in Wilmington, after painstaking detective work by Martin, who surveilled the apartment and conferred with school officials to verify the address. Legall had obtained custody orders after the girl’s mother absconded with the child and refused visitations.

En route to the police station for the reunion, investigators gave the girl the stuffed rabbit and encouraging words.

“The Child Abduction Unit is a first-class operation,” Legall said. “Martin was straight-up flawless. Even during the pandemic, she treated the case with urgency.”

In 2020, the unit opened 104 child abduction cases, with 49 recoveries.

​“This is very rewarding work,” Martin said. “It’s heartwarming to see how much fathers care and want relationships with their child. You can’t just take them and think that’s OK. What we do is help them get reunited.”