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Ohio authorities drop charges against Rowan residents charged with kidnapping

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

Ohio authorities say charges against Rowan County residents who were charged in mid-June for abducting a child have been dropped. The father who reported the abduction of his 7-year-old recanted his story, officials said.

Chad Ratcliff told officials with the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office his estranged wife, Stacey Ratcliff, 30, of Salisbury, along with four others, took his daughter from his home at 49510 Eagle Ridge Road in Racine, Ohio.

Chad Ratcliff said the sitter said his estranged wife, Stacey, and a black male took the child and left in a blue Dodge Durango. The vehicle had North Carolina license plates.

When the sitter attempted to stop the vehicle by jumping on the hood, he said the black male, carrying a pistol, hit him over the head.

Ohio authorities immediately issued an Amber Alert for the girl, Dakoda Ratcliff. In addition to the alert, authorities with the Ohio State Patrol, Pomeroy (Ohio) Police, Ravenswood (West Virginia) Police, Jackson County (West Virginia) Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police responded to the Ravenswood Bridge and Interstate 77 in an attempt to locate the Dodge Durango.

The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office charged Stacey Ratcliff, along with Johnny Miller, 24, also of Salisbury; Maleah Leppanen, 30, of Salisbury; Mary Livengood, 26, of Salisbury and Travis Holcomb, 30, of Dallas, N.C. with aggravated burglary and kidnapping.

 According to Charles Mansfield, deputy chief of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, “all charges had to be dropped by the court because the prosecution had no witness to go forward with the case.”

Johnny Miller said the incident did not quite occur as Chad Ratcliff told authorities. According to Miller, the mother received a phone call saying her daughter was living in squalid conditions at a home that Miller called a “meth” house.

Meigs County officials did not confirm whether the Racine, Ohio home was a meth house.

According to Miller, the child was found asleep inside the home by herself. He said Stacey Ratcliff grabbed her daughter and walked back to the car. A man who was in the back of the house ran out and tried to stop them, Miller said.

He said there was no gun involved in the incident and they all drove to a local Walmart so that he could get a money order to purchase gas. In fact, Miller said, he was only in the vehicle because he promised them he’d provide gas money.

Miller said the only person he knew well inside the car was Maleah Leppanen. He said Travis Holcomb was also there to provide gas money for the drive to Ohio.

It was reported that the incident was the result of a custody battle, however, according to Miller the Ratcliffs have equal custody of the child.

Miller said he’s not the “animal” that people think he is following the Ohio incident.

Ohio officials say they are grateful the Amber Alert worked and law enforcement agencies in Ohio and West Virginia were able to work together to “rescue a little girl in a short period of time.”

The child, Dakoda Ratcliff, is still in foster care and is happy, Chief Deputy Mansfield said. He said the case will remain open pending additional information, at which time the Ohio agency will again file charges on anyone involved.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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