The search continues for a young mother and her three children in a small Virginia town, despite remarks made by her husband that she is “not missing.”
Thirty-year-old Lauren Cook, her sons Benjamin, 7, and Elijah, 2, and 5-year-old daughter Hannah were reported missing last week after the mother-of-three failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing in Franklin County.
Family members last spoke with Ms Cook on 5 September, and she was later confirmed to have travelled to Illinois.
Initial reports that Ms Cook’s husband Jordan Cook was worried were followed by a statement in which he categorically denied his family was missing and claimed he had “no reason to be concerned about [their] safety or well-being.”
However, the Cooks’ kids have been entered into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said that a missing persons investigation will remain open until deputies can establish contact with Ms Cook.
Here’s everything we know about the case:
The Cooks live with their children in the southwest Virginia town of Ferrum.
The missing mother did not appear for a scheduled court appearance on 5 September in Franklin County Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. Details about her pending case are not available as juvenile records are sealed to the public.
The investigation was officially launched on 13 September, when Ms Cook failed to show up at the rescheduled court hearing. Sheriff’s Sgt Megan Huston told ABC13 that Ms Cook was not believed to have run away with her children.
“Usually you see where a non-custodial parent will run off with the kids, which is not this situation,” Sgt Huston said last week. “There is concern as to where she is at and where the kids are at after it has been over a week now since anybody has had communication with her.”
Sgt Huston also said that Mr Cook was extremely concerned for his family and had no idea where his children and wife were.
“He’s upset, as any parent would be of ‘Where are my children at?’,” Sgt Huston initially said. “We don’t have any signs that she is in danger, but we’re just trying to locate them and make sure they’re safe.”
Ms Cook’s phone last pinged on 7 September in Lexington, a town about 90 miles from her home. There has been no activity in her bank account since she vanished.
Missing mother was in Illinois, police say
Authorities said that Ms Cook has had no contact with her family since 5 or 6 September. According to investigators, it was confirmed on 14 September that the mother-of-three and the children were in Litchfield, Illinois.
Law enforcement did not clarify how it was determined that they travelled out of state or whether they are believed to still be there. However, it was mentioned in a press release that the family has ties in other states.
“To clear Lauren and her children from being ‘missing persons’, a law enforcement agency must make in-person contact with them in order to confirm that they are okay and not under duress,” the statement read. “Until then, they will remain in local and national databases as ‘missing.’”
Husband says Lauren Cook and children are safe
Ms Cook’s husband released a statement to WSET-TV saying that there was “no reason to be concerned,” adding that his wife had communicated with him.
“Contrary to what has been reported, my wife and children are not ‘missing,’” Mr Cook said. “I have no reason to be concerned about their safety or well-being. I have heard from my wife, and I’m sure she and my children are doing well. We ask that our family’s privacy be respected at this time.”
However, Sgt Huston told USA Today that her agency was not aware of that communication and continued to search for Ms Cook and her children.
“Lauren Cook and the three children are still entered as missing. Law enforcement (wherever it may be) has to lay eyes on her and the children in order for them to be removed as missing from the system,” she said in a statement.
It is thought that the mother and her three children could be travelling in a blue 2013 Chrysler van with Virginia tags.
Anyone with information regarding Ms Cook’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 540-483-3000.