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Father Given Sole Custody Of Formerly Missing Children

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The father of three children who went missing on February 14 after their mother took them out of the state, was granted sole custody Friday morning.

“Give them a big hug and a big kiss,”said the children’s father Steven Pena, referring to what he would do when he saw them.

The mother is not allowed to see the children or go to their school.

On Thursday, the children were found safe–all the way across the country.

Their mother, Carrie Weingarth, and her boyfriend, Christian Coello, were placed in custody, according to Miami Dade Schools police.

“I can’t wait, I can’t wait to just grab my kids and give them a big hug,” said Pena.

Nearly a week after his children disappeared, Pena received the phone call he’d been hoping to get.

“They told me they have good news for me that they got her in custody and they were bringing my kids home,” said Pena.  “I cried didn’t even know how to express it just it was very exciting news.”

Last Friday, police said Carrie Weingarth tried to remove her son 12-year-old Erin Pena from Gulfstream Elementary without authorization.

The school denied her, but police said she sneaked back into the school and took Erin out of the cafeteria.

Then, police say Weingarth and Coello took Erin, and his two younger brothers, Derrick and Steven Pena out of the state.

Thursday, Police tracked them to California where they said Weingarth and Coello were taken into custody.

“It’s been devastating just not knowing where they were,” added Pena.  “It’s just been driving me crazy, I wanted to know if they were safe and now I know, so I can’t wait until they come home.”

Weingarth’s family is also thankful the kids were found and they’re okay.

“They’re safe you have to thank God how everything’s alright,” said Lillian Weingarth, Carrie Weingarth’s grandmother.

Weingarth’s grandmother said she hasn’t talked to her granddaughter since she disappeared and can only guess why she left.

“She’s probably sorry that she did it, but she loved the kids and she was just tired of all the hassle.  She was just plain tired of it all. She wanted to get out and get away,” said Lillian Weingarth.

Before the children disappeared, Pena said Erin lived with him, but the parents shared custody of the other two children.

“Once they come back I’m going to put them back in school and maybe see how they are and put them in some counseling – hopefully to forget all this nightmare they’ve gone through,” said Pena. “I love them and I missed them and I’m excited to see them again.”

It’s not clear when the children will return to South Florida.

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