Missing Gwinnett boy, two brothers, taken from mom's custody

The Gwinnett County boy whose disappearance Monday triggered an overnight search with a helicopter and dogs turned up safe at an adult friend's house.

By the end of Tuesday, the adult who harbored 10-year-old Mario Taddeo and allegedly lied to police about it was facing a criminal charge, and Mario and his two brothers had been taken from their mother's custody.

The mother, Gabriella Taddeo, was interviewed by Gwinnett County police at their headquarters. She had gone there with Mario's older brother, 12, in tow, expecting to be reunited with her youngest son. She left without both boys.

She looked distraught as she left the building around 4 p.m. escorted by a woman. They got into a yellow car and drove away.

"I'm sure having the state take custody of your children is upsetting," said Cpl. Jacob Smith, a Gwinnett County police spokesman, when asked about her demeanor. He said her oldest son, a 16-year-old, also was removed from his mother's care. A judge placed all three boys under the temporary custody of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services pending that agency's investigation, Smith said.

Meanwhile, authorities charged family friend Christopher Ray, 29, with interference with the custody of a minor, Smith said.

Mario was found at Ray's home in Hall County on Tuesday morning.

The boy had gone from school Monday to his own home before leaving to visit a friend in his Lawrenceville-area neighborhood, according to police. He then left his friend's house at about 3 p.m. but never arrived home and was reported missing about 10:20 p.m.

Police canvassed Mario's neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods, aided by a helicopter and K-9 units.

It turns out Mario had called Ray and had asked him to pick him up because of some "personal family conflicts," said Smith, the police spokesman.

"It was something they coordinated together," Smith said. "The mother was not informed."

Ray denied knowing Mario's whereabouts when he was interviewed by Gwinnett investigators soon after the boy went missing, Smith said. The search ended at 11 a.m. Tuesday. That's when Hall County authorities who were staking out Ray's home spotted Mario outside, Smith said.

Smith said the temporary custody revocation stemmed from an incident two weeks ago. It "apparently started with a fight amongst the brothers," he said.

--Staff writers Larry Hartstein and Mike Morris and staff photographer John Spink contributed to this report.