Missing Wisconsin Boy Found in Grand Traverse County
“He just seemed like a guy and his kid that were trying to see the country” – Tom Gowen, Kingsley
A parental kidnapping case from Wisconsin and a tip from Northern Michigan both led investigators to Grand Traverse County to find a missing 4-year-old boy.
The case started in Wisconsin back in July, but ended more than 300 miles away in Kingsley after someone spotted the missing child alert on Facebook.
Pleasant Prairie Police Chief David Smetana says, “Azariah’s mom reported him as not being returned from a custodial visit with his father.”
Pleasant Prairie Police say MarkAnthony William Petrick made it clear he was on the run.
“The father was not intending to bring Azariah back home. He communicated that with the mother and indicated there was a possibility that she wouldn’t see him again.”
The chief says there were leads in several states where the father had friends or acquaintances.
“We checked out all of those in a painstaking manner. We had a detective working on this case almost constantly.” Smetana added, “It just appeared the father had some expertise going off the grid. That made our search even more difficult. We didn’t receive any cooperation from his family whatsoever.”
The chief says they turned to other agencies for help.
“We utilized help from local, state, and federal authorities in an attempt to find Azariah. We did work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
Smetana says there was not a concern that Azariah was in physical danger, but finding him remained a priority.
“It was really just a matter of finding where dad was hiding. We didn’t have any indication that the child’s safety was in danger. But anytime that a child is kind of off the grid with a parent that becomes a concern as well.”
But Monday night, a Kingsley man–unwinding with his nightly ritual of scrolling social media–came across something that stopped him cold. Because of him, The parental kidnapping investigation ended Monday night around 11 p.m. at Paul’s Auto & RV.
Tom Gowen says he was “skimming through some friend’s news feeds, I saw the top half of a face of a little boy that kind of looked familiar to me. I stopped, clicked on the link and pulled up Azariah Petrick. He was definitely the little boy that I’ve seen almost every day for the last two weeks at the lot. His father and he had been staying in an RV having repairs done.”
Gowen is the General Manager at Paul’s Auto & RV in Kingsley. He knew he wasn’t getting any sleep Monday night.
“I was completely floored, completely taken aback.”
Gowen called a coworker, then called police.
“I contacted my coworker and said, hey, I think this is the guy that’s staying at the lot, what do you think we should do? We wanted to make sure he was still here before we contacted police, we didn’t want it to come across the scanner and have him flee.”
Chief Smetana says the missing child’s information being shared on social media was critical.
“He had seen Azariahs’ information on there as well as Mark’s. He called in a tip last night on the whereabouts of where they could be found.”
Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll says, ‘The caller stated they saw the missing child on Facebook, the Amber Alert. And notified dispatch.”
Tom Gowen says, “They didn’t really take us seriously at first. They just told us, it seemed kind of like a joke, ‘we’ll call you back.”
So Gowen called Pleasant Prairie Police at the phone number on the missing child poster.
“They were very caught off guard that we had any information and contacted Grand Traverse and had officers out here immediately. It was complete shock. They didn’t expect this to happen.”
Gowen says the father-and-son duo had actually been at the RV shop for a couple of weeks getting ongoing repairs that needed to be done for their RV. But it wasn’t the first time they had been here in Kingsley.
“He had come a couple weeks ago to have some things looked at as far as fuel gauge issues and jack issues and some other issues on the coach. He’d been here a couple weeks this time. He’d actually stayed right there, hooked up to water, we filled up his tanks every few days. The hot water heater went out and we had to get that going for him. He was actually in the shower when police came.”
Gowen says over the past two weeks he’d talked with Petrick regularly.
“In the process of getting parts in, he’d come in every day towards the end of the day and we’d talk for about a half hour or so. He just seemed like a guy and his kid that were trying to see the country.”
Gowen says it’s lucky that Petrick had purchased an old RV from someone else in northern Michigan and the need for repairs kept him at the shop for the past two weeks.
“It just seems one thing keeps happening and going wrong on their RV after another. That kind of held them up here. Luckily it held them long enough until I saw that post.”
And when police arrived, state police Lt. Derrick Carroll says, “the father was less than cooperative. He gave a false name at first. I don’t know the extent of how long he continued the charade.”
Gowen helped police at the scene.
“There was no violence, no shouting, no raised voices. It just went really smoothly. They asked him what his son’s name was after he had given a false name for himself. He told them his son’s name was Abendigo. And one of the officers turned and asked the boy, and he said ‘my name is Azariah.’ That was what I needed to hear, to know.”
Lt. Carroll says, “We were able to return the child safely to the mother.”
Lt. Carroll says the boy’s mother came from Wisconsin immediately and was reunited with Azariah.
Police in Wisconsin are also relieved.
Chief Smetana says, “If there’s a takeaway, when you see this information come out you never know where or when you may be in contact with an individual who may be involved in something like this, so your ability to keep your eyes open really helps.”
Gowen is glad he was paying attention.
“I just can’t share the importance of sharing those posts out there to bring these kids home.”
Chief Smetana hasn’t talked to the mother, but says, “You can imagine the grief and the anxiety that a mom goes through of not having seen her child since July 22. Not knowing the exact whereabouts, having zero contact with her four year old child. I can only imagine mom is overjoyed to be reconnected with Azariah. And we’re happy that was able to happen.”
Markanthony William Petrick is now in the Grand Traverse County Jail on a felony charge of parental child abduction. He’ll be sent back to Wisconsin to face charges there.