Suspected kidnappers were caught by Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers as they tried to flee across the ice of Whitefish Bay to Canada with a 5-year-old boy.
The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a domestic dispute at a residence and went to investigate.
George Stephen Cunningham who is the boy’s biological father and a registered sex offender as well as Jon Scott Stygler had gone to the house armed with knives, chemical spray and blunt objects.
The residence is located on Whitefish Road in Paradise, in the northeast corner of the Upper Peninsula.
Police said Cunningham and Stygler bound and gagged a woman outside then placed her in a parked vehicle. The two men then went inside, spraying the occupants with chemical spray and taping their mouths shut with duct tape as well as binding them using zip ties.
While the suspects searched the house for the boy, one of the victims was able to get free and stab at least one of the suspects. The men then left the house, taking the child.
They were reported heading north in a camouflage pickup truck. The vehicle was found about 5 miles north of where the original incident took place.
Sheriff’s deputies contacted Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers for help because of a concern the suspects may resort to traveling with the child using a snowmobile.
Corporal Kevin Postma and fellow Conservation Officer Calvin Smith along with sheriff’s Deputy Doug Mitchell located the suspects’ tracks and began following them which led to Whitefish Bay.
“The ice was turning to slush – if we got off our sleds, the slush was up to our knees,” Smith said.
The three officers caught up with the suspects who were traveling on foot and pulling the child on a sled.
“There was no way they were going to make it all the way to Canada,” Smith said. “They would have eventually fallen through the ice, which had recently been broken for ships by an ice breaker. They were not dressed for the conditions, especially with the wind. One of the suspects was even beginning to show signs of hypothermia.”
The suspects did not require medical treatment and were released to the custody of the sheriff. The young boy was cold, but in good condition.
Cunningham and Stygler were arraigned Thursday on multiple charges in Chippewa County District Court in Sault Ste. Marie. Cunningham was jailed without bond; Stygler is being held on a $1 million bond. Deputies said the child has since been returned to his legal guardians and is doing well.