Greenfield man reunited with son missing for 18 years

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard was just five years old when police say his mother abducted him and his siblings during a custody battle.

Now, Nathan is back in Indiana and has been reunited with his father, 18 years after his disappearance.

The cold case began in Greenfield, but ended hundreds of miles away in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Police say it's been an answered prayer for Nathan's father, Steven Slinkard.

In the basement of the Hancock County Sheriff's Office, you'll find row upon row of current and cold cases. They're archives, boxed up, with detective's notes, subpoenas and police reports. Some date back 20 years.

"I mean, cases get that old, generally you don't solve them," explained Hancock County Sheriff Michael Shepherd.

But archives of an abduction from the 1995 Slinkard case just came to an unexpected end after 18 long years.

"It really is just remarkable that he does get to see them again, or one of them, at least, right now," Shepherd said.

Nathan Slinkard, who detectives say was taken by his mother at age five, is now back in Greenfield, reunited with his father, who never gave up the search for his children.

"Being a father and seeing your son for the first time in 18 years, it had to be very emotional for him," Shepherd said.

Steven Slinkard's three kids disappeared after a custody hearing with his ex-wife, Trena.

"When he went to meet her, they weren't there. She didn't show up," Shepherd explained.

For years, police tried to track them. Their father, Steven, made public pleas for help.

"I don't have a clue as to why someone would do that to their own children, to lie to them and manipulate them the way that she is," Steven Slinkard said in a 2000 Eyewitness News interview. "They're always on my mind. They never leave."

But as time passed, clues in the case grew scarce, despite persistent investigations by detectives.

"This was one of those cases where they kind of ran out of leads," Shepherd said, "and something would come every so often that they would follow up on and it went through two or three different detectives."

Then suddenly last week, Nathan, the middle child, walked into the U.S. Consulate in Mexico, gave his birth certificate and asked to come home.

He's now 23 years old.

"He just decided that he wanted to come back to America and see his dad," Shepherd said.

Police say investigators checked Nathan's surgical scars, to make sure they matched the description from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Once his identity was confirmed, the agency arranged a flight back to Indiana.

At Indianapolis International Airport, with detectives looking on, father and son were reunited. They're now together in Greenfield after nearly two decades apart.

"He came with a suitcase and the clothes on his back, about all that he had," Shepherd said. "I think he was happy and I think looking forward to starting his life here in America."

As for Nathan's life in Mexico, investigators say he hasn't talked much about it yet.

"We believe everything was okay there and the life that he knew. He just chose to come back," Shepherd said.

Police are trying to give the family privacy as they reconnect. But there are still unanswered questions in this case and they hope to talk to Nathan a bit more, to understand in detail what happened over all those years.

Trena Slinkard still has a warrant for her arrest in the custody case. Police also believe Nathan's siblings, Andrew and Sydney, now adults themselves, are still living in Mexico.

Shepherd says it's not clear if Trena will face any sort of prosecution.

"Our main focus is not so much on getting mom and bringing her back," Shepherd said. "Our main focus is getting the other children, locating the other children and reuniting them with their father."