GLEN HAVEN, Mich. (AP) — A 12-hour search for a man wanted on a domestic violence charge and his three young children ended when rescuers found them clambering down a hillside at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, leaving baffled authorities searching for answers.
“I feared for the worst,” Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said Monday night. “It all turned out well, but something was wrong with this picture.”
The children — the man’s 14- and 10-year-old daughters and his 9-year-old son — were exhausted, famished and covered with mosquito bites but otherwise unharmed, the sheriff said.
The 50-year-old father from the Detroit suburb of Orchard Lake faces a domestic violence complaint that his wife filed in Emmet County, the sheriff said.
He was jailed overnight. Petoskey District Court said a magistrate will set the father’s bond on Tuesday, but no court hearing will be scheduled until Wednesday at the earliest.
No other charges were expected, Borkovich said.
The children had been given nothing to eat or drink since breakfast Sunday morning. They arrived that afternoon at the lakeshore in the northwest corner of Lower Michigan, about 280 miles northwest of Detroit, and spent the night in the woods with little shelter. A heavy rainstorm drenched the area Monday morning, and the remainder of the day was hot and muggy.
The motive for the man’s actions wasn’t immediately clear. The children told their rescuers they’d been on a camping trip, said Phil Akers, chief ranger at the national lakeshore.
“They didn’t appear to have a lot of supplies or equipment with them,” said Phil Akers, chief ranger at the national lakeshore. “Just kind of a spur-of-the-moment, ‘let’s take off into the woods and go camping’ trip.”
The man got into a conflict with his wife Sunday during a vacation in Emmet County, Borkovich said. She filed a complaint against him with the county sheriff’s department, which issued a misdemeanor warrant.
About 7 a.m. Monday, a lakeshore park ranger spotted a car with a dented door parked on a road near the Coast Guard Maritime Heritage Museum. Borkovich said the ranger ran a check on the license plate and learned there was an alert for the vehicle, touching off a massive manhunt.
Crews walked the Lake Michigan shoreline and combed wetlands and inland ridges. The search involved dozens of personnel from the Michigan State Police, the national park, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Leelanau County and Grand Traverse County sheriff’s departments. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter team searched by air.
Parts of the lakeshore, including the popular Dune Climb, were closed to the public during the search.
Reinforcements from volunteer fire departments and other agencies arrived Monday night and began combing the area more systematically. The family was found about an hour later, walking down a sandy hillside. The terrain in the park along the northern Lake Michigan coast is a mixture of towering dunes and swampy woodlands thick with trees and undergrowth.
“We saw no criminal intent,” Borkovich said afterward. “It didn’t look like the subject was going to flee to Chicago with the kids or out west or to Mexico. It didn’t look like he planned to harm them in any way. The spouse said he loves his kids and they love him. We got good word from his side of the family that he’s a very gentle person and no problems.
“So as it turned out, it’s a very strange event but all ended well.”
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