Mother reunited with children after 9-year search

Madison detective aids in successful recovery for missing children case
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 10:06 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 10:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Two children taken from Madison were gone for nine years before being safely reunited with their mother.

They’re father was the one who took them away. Because he had parental rights at the time, it took the kids' mother years to add them to the Missing Children list.

To fully understand what happened, you must go back more than a decade.

In 2009, the kids' mother Melanie Campos and her husband at the time, Charlie Rosas were separated.

She lived in West Saint Paul, MN, he called Madison home. The two locations are more than four hours apart.

On May 29, it was Rosas’s weekend with the kids, ages two and three at the time.

“He took off to Mexico,” Campos said.

Campos called Madison Police, who performed a search, but did not find any of the three. Rosas threatened the mother that she’d “never see her children again.”

Mug shot of Charlie Rosas after arrest in 2013
Mug shot of Charlie Rosas after arrest in 2013(Seward County Sheriff's Office)

“I think when he first left with them, he contacted me once or twice, but then nothing,” Campos said.

In 2010, Rosas lost his parental rights, police issued an arrest warrant for kidnapping, and officers arrested him in Phoenix, AZ. Rosas was transferred to Hastings, MN, where he spent 10 months behind bars. However, even after all that time, he didn’t give any clues about where the kids were.

“We spoke with Mexican police too, because the Mexican police had a few warrants over there too,” Melanie’s current husband, Luis Campos said. “But they didn’t find anything because he moved locations to family [members'] houses and friends' houses.”

Luis Campos was with Melanie throughout the process of locating her children.

“We searched Mexico got, missing children involved, we got the state department involved,” Melanie Campos said.

Campos also worked with local Minnesota authorities.

Four years later, in 2014, the divorce was finalized, leaving Campos with full custody of the children. This allowed the kids to officially be declared missing.

Melanie Campos officially declared her children missing in 2014
Melanie Campos officially declared her children missing in 2014(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

Campos even traveled to Mexico herself, and came close to recovering them, but just missed them.

“When I initially got this case, I was thinking it was daunting,” Det. Baker said.

In 2015, Det. Baker came into the picture. Baker works closely with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

“There are a lot of complicated issues with family reunification,” Det. Baker said.

However, Baker and Campos caught a break a few months later. Baker found out that Rosas was serving a three-year sentence in a Georgia prison, under a different name.

“We determined his release date and he was brought back into Mexico,” Det. Baker said.

Rosas was released in the spring of 2016. Baker and other law enforcement agencies were able to track his movements. That summer, Rosas contacted Campos and asked her to wire money for the kids.

“I thought ‘this is a good sign.’ So, I advised her to do that, but in return, ask for some pictures,” Det. Baker said.

Campos received the pictures and saw her children for the first time in seven years. In August, after continued conversations, Campos arranged a visit to Mexico for herself; and in 2018, a trip to the U.S. for the kids.

Campos was able to finally visit her children in August 2016
Campos was able to finally visit her children in August 2016(Melanie Campos)

“I was happy to finally see them and know that they were alive,” Campos said.

Behind the scenes, detectives worked hard to make sure they stayed here, for good.

“That is one of the small joys of looking for long-term missing persons cases, because the endings aren’t often happy,” Baker said. “I’m just so happy they’re all together again.”

That summer, Campos brought her son and daughter to the border, and with a confirmation phone call from a Minnesota detective, she finally brought them home.

“Never stop fighting looking for your children if they’re missing,” Campos said. “Because it took me forever, but I finally found them after 9 years.”

NBC15 News Investigates asked Det. Baker if Rosas ever gave a reason for taking the children. Baker said, at some point during the investigation, Rosas told authorities he thought they’d be better off with his family.

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