Missing toddler found safe, mom booked into Yakima County jail

UPDATE, 8 p.m.: The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday evening that three-year-old Faith Hegge had been found safe in Yakima by deputies and members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offenders Task Force.

“Good news! Faith has been safely recovered and is currently with Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families,” the sheriff’s office posted. “She is okay and we expect her to be seen by a pediatrician.”

Melissa Hegge was arrested on suspicion of first-degree custodial interference and booked into the Yakima County jail.

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Three-year-old Faith Hegge hasn’t been seen for weeks; authorities say her mother took her Feb. 1 from a home in Parker, Wash. and is hiding her from law enforcement officers.

“We don’t know where [Faith’s] at,” Yakima County sheriff’s spokesperson Casey Schilperoort said. “We don’t know how she’s being taken care of.”

Yakima County sheriff’s deputies filed a warrant Friday for the arrest of 33-year-old Melissa Hegge, who’s been charged with first-degree custodial interference in connection with her daughter’s disappearance.

Deputies said they’re concerned for Faith’s wellbeing, as Melissa does not have custody of Faith; she’s homeless, has a long history of drug abuse and is a convicted felon — including a conviction for first-degree manslaughter, according to court documents.

“We just don’t know what type of environment [Faith’s] being exposed to,” Schilperoort said.

Schilperoort said Faith’s grandparents recently filed for custody of the toddler. Faith was supposed to be removed from her current living situation on Jan. 31, prior to the upcoming custody dispute, court documents said.

“As soon as Melissa found that out, she left the area, we believe,” Schilperoort said. “Or she’s actively avoiding any parents, relatives and law enforcement.”

The day after the order to remove Faith was filed in Yakima County Superior Court, the woman who’d been caring for Faith — her aunt—left a message for CPS, court documents said.

“I gave the baby back to her mother,” the aunt said in court documents. “Good luck finding her. Now leave me the f*** alone.”

In court documents, deputies said they’ve attempted to serve the order more than 10 times, at multiple addresses, without any success in finding Faith.

Faith was last seen at a home near Columbia Street and Fifth Avenue in Parker, Wash., about five miles south of Union Gap, Wash., Schilperoort said.

According to court documents, Melissa published a series of comments on a Facebook post she made Feb. 13, where she said she would not give up her daughter without a fight.

“I’ll be damned if anybody on his m************ Earth will ever take any one of my kids ever again without a fight,” Melissa commented. “[They] are going to have to take me to prison or kill me.”Melissa continued, saying she’d be “taking out” anyone who tries to stop her or who had already stopped her with her other kids.

“I’m not afraid to go to … prison again if I lose the only thing that is keeping me grounded to this earth,” Melissa commented.

Deputies said Melissa has three other children and that her parental rights have been terminated for all of them.

According to court documents, Melissa posted on Facebook on Feb. 20, saying “To be honest, I have my daughter and we are hiding cause [sic] her dad has called CPS on me. I’ll be damned if I lose another kid to CPS. I’m trying to get out of town.”

Melissa previously served 8.5 years in prison after police say she killed a man by smashing glass beer bottles over his head when she was 16 years old, according to court documents.

Court documents show that on March 29, 2003, then-16-year-old Melissa was drinking beer with a group of people in an upstairs bedroom inside a home near South Ninth Avenue and West Stewart Street in Yakima, Wash.

Christopher Jones, 41, was at the party with his brother; partway through, Christopher walked down the stairs to a separate bedroom, court documents said.

Police said Melissa followed him; when another person from the party went downstairs to check on the two, they came back up to tell the rest of the group that the two had been engaged in a sex act, according to court documents.

“A short time later, [Melissa] came up to [the] room and told them Christopher had given her $40 and said he did not want to be disturbed,” court documents said.

Melissa left with the person who’d come downstairs to check on her and Christopher; the following day, Christopher’s brother found his body in the basement, court documents said.

During an interview with investigators, Melissa reportedly told police she had hit Christopher over the head with at least two glass beer bottles, at least one of which had broken.

“[Melissa] stated her intent was to knock Christopher unconscious and take his money,” court documents said.

According to court documents, after striking Christopher multiple times over the head with the beer bottles, Melissa told police she took his wallet, stole about $100 to $150 in cash and then threw the wallet next to him.

When the man came downstairs to check on the two, Melissa reportedly told police he asked her what she was doing.

“[Melissa] stated that she told [the man] she did not know, but that Christopher was being ‘mean’ to her,” court documents said.

Melissa reportedly told police she’d cut her hand on a broken bottle, washed her hands and then left with the man who’d come to check on her.

“[They] left the residence and went and purchased drugs with the money she took from Christopher,” court documents said.

Melissa was initially charged with first-degree murder, but later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree robbery.