This article orginally appeared on Huffington Post by Nina Golgowski on August 30th, 2016.
A multi-state search for an accused sex offender and four missing kids ended with the children’s safe recovery Sunday, authorities said.
Joseph Moreno, 37, and Penny Rascon, 37, who had been wanted in California, were located at a convenience store outside New Orleans, according to Louisiana state police.
In Moreno and Rascon’s car, state troopers found Rascon’s four children, ages 4, 6, 7 and 8. All four had been reported missing in California and have since been released to Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, police said in a release.
Moreno and Rascon were booked into the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office. Moreno faces an active arrest warrant from California for three counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14. Rascon was booked for child abduction.
State police had received information that the couple might be heading to Louisiana, prompting an alert. It’s not clear why Moreno and Rascon went to Louisiana or why police anticipated that they might.
Nonetheless, two state troopers who received the alert recognized Moreno in the Arcadia Parish store around 3 a.m. Rascon and her children were then found in the parking lot, police said.
The kids were described as hungry and dirty, having not bathed in several days. Troopers purchased food and drinks for them before transporting them back to their headquarters, where they were treated to toys and visits by other troopers, state police said.
“This is an excellent example of Troopers working hand in hand with law enforcement across the nation to help those in need,” Col. Mike Edmonson, Louisiana’s state police superintendent, said in a release. “The successful recovery of these four children is proof that law enforcement partnerships work. Troopers will continue to work with our established partners to seek out and bring to justice those who wish to harm our children.”