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9-year-old Washington County boy found safe, will be returned to legal guardian

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A 9-year-old Washington County boy who was reported missing by his legal guardian has been found safe.

Joe Bell, who calls himself the boy's grandfather and guardian, said Jacob Bell was taken by his mother and grandmother Wednesday evening.

Bell claims he and his ex-wife, Darlene Bell, began caring for Jacob when the boy's mother, Arlea Bell, left for Arkansas.

Wednesday night, he says Darlene and Arlea both showed up to his house. They wanted to take Jacob out to dinner. Joe didn't protest because he knew Mother's Day was coming up.

Several hours later, Arlea texted Joe: "I wanted you to know he is going home with me. He needs to be with his mother. Thank you for everything you have done. If you have any questions, contact my lawyer."

That’s when Joe decided to call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. When he went out to search for Jacob, he found the boy's GPS in a dumpster.

The boy was reported to have been found safe early Thursday afternoon. He'll be reunited with Joe.

This particular case didn't qualify for law enforcement to roll out an AMBER Alert because the grandfather told authorities he didn't believe the child to be in immediate danger, reports indicate. In addition to other criteria, "danger" to the child is one of the main things law enforcement needs to go ahead with an AMBER Alert. You can read the full criteria here.


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