A 6-year-old girl from Perham, Minn., was reunited with her father Monday evening in Nashville, Tenn. — nearly four weeks after her mother took the girl to Tennessee, according to news media and a private investigator hired to look for the girl.
Brian Cooney had been searching for his daughter, Claire, since Feb. 14. She was found on Sunday in Tellico Plains, Tenn. (about 60 miles southwest of Knoxville) after store owners in the town called police about a girl matching a missing person’s flier, according to Renee Brewer, a private investigator hired by the father.
Claire allegedly was taken by Cooney’s ex-wife, Miranda, and her boyfriend, Jonathan Bromen, violating a court order, according to KARE 11. The girl’s parents previously shared custody of their daughter, but the father recently was granted temporary sole custody, KARE reported.
“It’s been a nightmare not knowing where she is,” Cooney told WKRN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Nashville. Brewer, who’s office is in Nashville, said the father called about his missing daughter on March 2, after he couldn’t get in contact with his ex-wife. She started distributing fliers of the missing girl in rural areas of Tennessee after finding out that the Bromen has family in the state.
On March 2, the owner of a thrift store in Centerville, Tenn., called authorities to report a suspicious couple with a child shopping for camping gear, Brewer said.
The couple told the store owner they were “going off the grid,” according to Brewer.
“So they basically told her their plans,” Brewer said Monday evening. “It was just a matter of finding where they were in the woods. It took a lot of background checks and we passed out a lot of fliers.”
The owner took a photo of the couple’s vehicle, which helped Brewer’s investigation, she said.
On Sunday, the owner of a deli in Tellico Plains called police after seeing a couple and a little girl walking near the store, according to KARE 11. The owner thought they resembled pictures he saw on a flier Brewer had passed out in the community. Brewer said Claire’s blonde hair was dyed black to help hide her identity.
“It was a matter of keeping on ... basically we passed out fliers and we went almost door to door, business to business, in every back road,” Brewer said. “I believed the community would stand up.”
Officers quickly responded to the call and rescued the girl, according to KARE 11.
Miranda Cooney and Bromen were arrested, Brewer said. The mother was served with an order for protection and is expected to be in a Minnesota courtroom in the next week, she added.
“Claire’s mother told her, ‘They are making me go back to Minnesota, so I’ll see you there,’ ” Brewer said.
Father and daughter reunited Monday evening at a hotel near the Nashville airport.
All three are expected to return to Minnesota soon.