HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A nationwide missing persons alert was issued on Tuesday for a 4-year-old girl named Saadiya James who may be here in the Tampa Bay area.
”I just want to know where she is,” said the girl’s mother Mary James. “I just want to know where my baby is, that’s it… I just want to know that she’s safe. I want her to know where her mommy is, that’s it.”
The girl is believed to be with her father, Nathaniel “Nate” James, who vanished with the child during a visitation in Sherman, Texas on Nov. 4.
Mary James has full custody and the couple is separated but Nathaniel James drove from his home at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County to Texas for a visitation with his daughter.
Mary James dropped her off at a Holiday Inn in Sherman to spend the night with him and when she returned the next day, they had vanished. A pick-up order issued by a judge in Oklahoma where Mary was originally given custody authorizes any law enforcement officer to pick up the child if they see her.
But the only trace of James and the girl is his Chevy Suburban that private investigators located in the driveway of his sister’s house on Fawn Dale Drive in Riverview. Hillsborough deputies and child protective investigators found no trace of the father or daughter at the home.
Meanwhile, Mary James is beside herself with worry because this is the second time her estranged husband has snatched the girl from her.
The first time happened about two years ago at Sanford International Airport when James was dropping Mary and her daughter off for a flight back to Oklahoma. As soon as Mary got out of the car, he sped off.
Sanford Airport police tracked James to the VA hospital in Tampa and located the girl in the care of his sister in Riverview. On that occasion, James returned the girl without further incident.
But this time is different. The father and child have been missing for a month and private investigators believe he has vacated his residence at Patrick Air Force Base, where they say an eviction notice is on the door.
Mary James has never been away from her daughter for this long.
“Some nights I don’t sleep. Some nights I really don’t sleep, I stay up ready for the sun to come up to find my baby. I came to Florida to get her,” Mary said.
She says her estranged husband is a disabled veteran who suffers from chronic back pain. He works as an IT defense contractor but it’s not clear where he’s currently employed. Private investigators say James has a network of family members in Hillsborough County who show little interest in helping locate the child or the father.
Right now, court orders filed in Oklahoma and Florida do not involve any criminal charges against James for illegally taking his daughter on a cross country flight but that could soon change if an Oklahoma court issues an order determining interference of child custody.
For the moment, all that Mary James can do is wait and hope that someone will spot Saadiya and alert authorities so she can be reunited with her daughter, who just turned four on Oct. 8.
“She’s looking for me. I know she’s looking for me,” Mary said. “I can feel it every night, every single day. She’s wanting to know where her mommy is.”
Hillsborough deputies say they are aware of the situation but have done all they can do. If someone locates the child, they will move to recover her.
“I just want to know where she is,” Mary said.
Anyone who sees the child should contact 911.
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