Abducted child reunited with mother, father faces judge

Colin Nathaniel Custer
Colin Nathaniel Custer
Custer's post-arrest mugshot
Custer's post-arrest mugshot
Robert William Custer, II (original photo)
Robert William Custer, II (original photo)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A multi-state manhunt culminated in a peaceful ending Monday when 4-year-old Colin Nathanel Custer was found safe after the capture of his father, Robert William Custer, II.

An AMBER Alert was issued for the boy early Monday. That night, the boy was reunited with his mother in Lexington County.

We're told both mother and son stayed at a local hotel overnight. Clothes, new glasses and food were donated by area businesses and the sheriff's department.

Both are expected to fly home to Florida on Wednesday.

Custer was captured at a home in Blacksburg, Virginia, after ditching his van at the North Carolina-Virginia border.

"He put his hands up and said, i don't want any trouble," says Sheriff Morgan Milliron.

Now beardless, he faced a Giles County, VA judge Tuesday, where he was appointed a lawyer. News 10's sister station WSLS in Roanoke reports Custer told the judge that he wanted to get back to South Carolina as soon as possible to make sure his son is okay.

Giles County Sheriff Morgan Millirons told WSLS Custer's mother owns property in Giles County, but she does not live there.

Sheriff Millirons says Custer wanted his son to spend some time with his grandparents, but believes the grandparents had no idea about the kidnapping charges.

Major Larry Shea with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department explained how Custer may have gotten further into Virginia.

"We believe he got a ride into Blacksburg by someone after leaving the vehicle there," Shea said.

Shea said Custer was armed when he was arrested, but he didn't resist.

Lexington County Sheriff's Deputies say the hunt started shortly after 6:30am when deputies responded to the Sunoco gas station at Piney Grove Road and I-26 and found Renee Pennell-Rashell, 36, of Summerfield, Florida, locked in the ladies restroom.

Authorities say she refused to answer the door. Deputies called in the fire department who assisted in opening the door; deputies entered and found the woman inside, cowering in fear. They say she had bruises on her leg, and abrasions on her wrists.

She was taken to Lexington Medical Center where she was treated and released.

Metts says Pennell-Rashell told deputies that she had met Custer Sunday evening in a supermarket parking lot in Ocala, Florida, to pick up their son following the conclusion of a court-ordered visitation.

Metts said instead, he abducted Pennell-Rashell by putting a cloth covered in plastic over her mouth and nose and she lost consciousness. When she came to, she and her son were in Custer's converted Chevy van.

Pennell-Rashell told deputies when Custer stopped at the gas station, she got her wrists free and ran into the restroom and locked the door.

Shortly before she locked herself in the restroom, she told the attendant on-duty that her life was in danger.

"She went in, told the clerk she was in fear of her life, clerk called police," Metts said. "We responded shortly after."

Surveillance footage shows Custer entering the station looking for Pennell-Rashell.

"The attendant told him that law enforcement had been called," Metts said. "He left in a cream colored van."

Deputies say people who saw the AMBER alert helped authorities track Custer all the way to Virginia.

"All those leads were followed up, and as I said, many of them were just cases of mistaken identity, but we also had some good leads that led us to the resolution of this case," Shea said.

The sheriff in Virginia tells us Custer's van, his trailer and truck were nowhere around when he was arrested.

"I don't know how he got here. We are under the impression someone brought him there, but we don't know who," says Sheriff Milliron.

Lexington deputies say after interviewing the victim, they believe the truck is within a hour of the area, but say it could be anywhere between Lexington County and Florida.
They believe key evidence could be inside the truck. If you know where it is, call the Lexington County Sheriff's Department.

Reported by Stewart Moore and Jordan Sandler

Updated by Bryce Mursch