Amber Alert canceled for Utah baby in midst of custody dispute

(Photo courtesy of Clinton Police Department) Authorities are looking for Taylor Webb, who is believed to have taken 3-week-old Audrey Westfall, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Police say Webb is the child's non-custodial parent.

Utah authorities on Friday night canceled an Amber Alert for a 3-week-old baby for whom there were disputed claims of custody.

The cancellation notice didn’t specify where the baby was. In an earlier statement issued by her lawyer, Taylor Webb said she and her baby went on Nov. 14 to the home of a grandparent in Clinton, who claimed guardianship of the infant using papers that Webb claims were not properly served.

A week later, Webb said, she left the grandmother’s house with the baby.

Police issued an Amber alert late Wednesday night, several hours after they said Webb and the infant girl disappeared.

In her statement, Webb said her attorney told a law enforcement officer in Utah that the guardianship papers produced by the grandmother are not valid.

“Even when acknowledging (at least tacitly) that he had no proof of service of any temporary guardianship [documents] ... he refused to take down the Amber Alert,” Webb wrote.

Her lawyer said that without proof that Webb was served notice of the grandmother’s guardianship, there is no justification for the Amber Alert.

“Then this isn’t a child abduction,” said San Jose-based attorney Robert Powell. “This is a mom that went somewhere with her kid.”

Clinton police said that the grandmother’s guardianship was affirmed in court on Thursday.

“The grandma still has state-ordered guardianship,” Sgt. Dick Murdock said in an interview on Friday. “I do know that there was a petition to the court yesterday to change that guardianship, and that petition was not found to be valid by the courts in California, so the guardianship stood.”

But Powell said that’s not entirely accurate. The court has not ruled on Webb’s objections to the guardianship order for the grandmother, Powell said; a judge on Thursday just declined to review them because the grandmother in Utah hadn’t been notified, he said.

There are multiple problems with the order giving temporary guardianship to the grandmother, Powell said. The grandmother requested the order because Webb was briefly in a medically induced coma due to pneumonia and another infection she developed after childbirth, Powell said. But, he said, it was filed on Nov. 15, the day after Webb was released from the hospital.

Powell also said the grandmother only received temporary guardianship because the baby’s father was deemed ineligible due to irregularities and coercion, he alleged, by authorities in California. In her statement, Webb wrote that child protection agents told her in a meeting that she would lose custody of the baby if she did not sign papers that denied custody to her boyfriend, who is the child’s father.

The Amber Alert itself posed complications when the alert provided almost no detail from the missing-child case, instead directing all recipients to call the same phone number for more information. The number was overwhelmed with callers and most were met with a busy signal. It’s the second Amber Alert in recent months to cause confusion. In September, Utahns received a text notification of an alert that stated only: “gry Toyt.”

The Utah Department of Public Safety is reviewing the alert system, a spokeswoman said.