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Missing Bellingham children found in California, mother arrested

Three missing Bellingham children - clockwise from left, Unity Rengo and twins Daniel and Mornakai Rengo - were found with their parents Thursday, Jan. 5, 2015 near Aptos, Calif.
Three missing Bellingham children - clockwise from left, Unity Rengo and twins Daniel and Mornakai Rengo - were found with their parents Thursday, Jan. 5, 2015 near Aptos, Calif. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The three missing Rengo children were found in Aptos, Calif., on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 5, and their mother arrested after she “became combative,” said Bradley Sadek, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol in Santa Cruz County.

The young Bellingham siblings have been at the center of a child welfare case.

Authorities had been looking for Unity (Levi) Rengo, 14 months old, and twins Daniel and Mornakai Rengo, 3 months old. Bellingham police said their parents, Erica May Carey, 29, and Cleave (or Cleve) Goheen Rengo, 23, fled Bellingham with the children around Jan. 24.

On Jan. 28, Child Protective Services obtained a court order to place the Rengo children in protective custody.

The Rengos became a social media sensation last year with online claims that the state was trying to take their children because the twins were born at home. Court testimony, however, focused on a multitude of other concerns from CPS.

The parents were spotted Monday, Feb. 2, in Rio Del Mar in California.

About 1:20 p.m. Thursday, someone called police and reported that the family was at a 76 gas station on State Park Drive in nearby Aptos. They were all in the family’s Hyundai Elantra.

“According to the attendant there, they’d just gotten 20 bucks worth of gas,” Sadek said.

The Bellingham Police Department asked authorities there to take custody of the children, he added, and CPS went to the scene to do so.

That was when Carey allegedly became combative; Sadek said she headbutted a CHP sergeant and kicked a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy.

She was arrested and booked into Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of delaying and resisting, as well as battery on a police officer.

The children’s father was compliant and released at the scene.

There was no warrant for the parents’ arrest, only a request that the children be returned to the state.

“We are delighted that these children have been found. They are in the custody of California child services, which is assisting with the return of the children to Washington state,” said Mindy Chambers, spokeswoman for CPS.

The children seemed OK, according to California authorities.

“They didn’t appear to have any obvious injuries or ailments,” Sadek said.

The three children were temporarily removed from the one-bedroom Bellingham apartment they shared with Rengo’s father, Bruce Rengo, on Nov. 5, amid the state’s concerns over a chaotic home life, including repeated contacts with law enforcement, the twins being underweight and whether the children were receiving adequate medical care.

After a hearing, a Whatcom County Superior Court commissioner returned the children to their parents Dec. 5, saying he was giving them a second chance but warning them that the children would be removed from the home if they didn’t follow his conditions as well as cooperate with CPS.

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