Ricky Chekevdia was just 4 years old when his parents began a tumultuous battle for custody of him in 2009. Parents Michael Chekevdia and Shannon Wilfong fought intensely against one another for legal custody of Ricky.
Wilfong had accused her ex-boyfriend, a former cop and Illinois National Guard lieutenant colonel, of sexual abuse against Ricky. But after investigations found no evidence, Chekevdia was awarded full custody.
But in the middle of their custody battle, Ricky and Wilfong suddenly disappeared without a trace.
Police searched the homes of both Wilfong and her mother Diane Dobbs, but found no evidence of their escape. For two years, the investigation would be ongoing, with no evidence coming to the surface.
But in 2011, authorities would uncover the dark truth Wilfong’s family had been hiding.
After receiving an anonymous tip, police entered Dobbs’ home with a warrant. They searched through the home, where they soon discovered numerous crawl spaces and wall hideouts.
In one crawl space hidden behind a dresser, they found Ricky and his mother hunched over and hiding.
Cops recall Ricky looking extremely pale, as if he hadn’t seen the sun in his life.
“We let him out of the car and he ran around like he’d never seen the outdoors,” Sergeant Stan Diggs said. “It was actually very sad.”
Ricky’s dad was shocked to discover that his missing son had only been three miles away from his home the entire time.
“I was skeptical at best that something might happen,” Chekevdia said. “When they notified me that they had found him, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather.”
Child welfare workers kept Ricky in protective services to go through therapy. And soon, he was reunited with his father.
Both Wilfong and Dobbs were arrested and pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanors, including abduction and obstructing a peace officer.
In exchange for pleading guilty, the mother and daughter received lesser sentences. Wilfong admitted to locking her son away when visitors came to the house, and to only letting him outside at night.
She paid a $1,500 fine and was sentenced to one month in jail and two years probation. Dobbs was credited for the 12 days she’d spent in jail and paid a fine of $1,000.
Both women explained that they believed they were keeping Ricky safe from his father, and that they were not guilty.
But Dobbs stated that Wilfong finally confessed after deciding to end the legal battle and work towards gaining visitation rights.
Today, Chekevdia says Ricky is growing into an outstanding young man, and that his confidence is growing by “leaps and bounds.”
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