U.S. Marshals issue alert after Virginia woman, children never return from vacation

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Authorities are asking for help locating Melody Bannister (left) who they believe may have abducted her four children (clockwise from top left) Genevieve Bannister, Vivienne Bannister, Janelle Bannister and Peter Bannister. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. (WJW) — Investigators are searching for a Virginia woman accused of abducting her four children.

According to WTVR, police began investigating the family in June when the woman, identified as 34-year-old Melody Bannister, informed the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office that her children were being abused by a family member.

A joint investigation between area law enforcement and child protective services determined Bannister’s allegations were unfounded.

Shortly after the investigation concluded, Bannister reportedly left Virginia with the children on a planned vacation and never returned.

The following month the county juvenile court granted custody of the children to their father.  Bannister reportedly refused to return the kids to their dad and petitioned courts in Alabama to grant her custody.  Officials in Alabama heard her case and ordered her to give the children to their dad.

Bannister absconded from Alabama with the children and hasn’t been seen since.

Recent developments in the case have led investigators to believe the children are in danger, so, on Thursday, they issued an alert for Bannister.

WTVR reports that she is currently wanted for one felony charge of violation of a court order, four misdemeanor abduction charges and one misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report.

The children were identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7.

Bannister and the children were last seen on August 20 in Moulton, Alabama.

Over the past several months, they have been seen at the following locations:

Birmingham, Alabama – 35201
Moulton, Alabama – 35650
Greenville, South Carolina – 29601
Shell Lake, Wisconsin – 54871
Madison, Wisconsin – 53701
Spooner, Wisconsin – 54801
Maryville, Tennessee – 37801
Knoxville, Tennessee – 37901
Lexington, Kentucky – 40502
Leadville, Colorado – 80429
Raleigh, North Carolina – 27601
Aransas Pass, Texas – 78335
Dallas, Texas – 75201
Corpus Christie, Texas – 78401

Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is asked to contact authorities at 1-877-WANTED2.

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