Grand Junction, CO – A month’s long investigation into the whereabouts of two missing and endangered children believed to have been abducted by their biological grandmother has come to an end with both children recovered safely, and the grandmother arrested.
Wednesday afternoon, fugitive Jacqueline Ballard, 67, was arrested at a residence in the Willow Heights neighborhood of Hotchkiss, near the intersection of Ash Lane and Aspen Lane. During the initial search of the residence, law enforcement officers located both children, 9 and 10, who had been missing since May 30, 2023. Both children were taken into protective custody and are now in the care of Child Protective Services.
On July 1, 2023, a Deputy U.S. Marshal in Grand Junction, CO who is assigned to the Colorado Violent Offender Task Force (COVOTF) became aware of a missing child case out of Hotchkiss, CO. Coordination was done with the Hotchkiss Police Department and Colorado Bureau of Investigation for the COVOTF to begin assisting with the case and to enter the missing children into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s national database.
On July 21, 2023, a felony arrest warrant was issued for Jacqueline Ballard by the Hotchkiss Police Department and Delta County courts charging her with violation of custody order (18-3-304(2)). This warrant was subsequently also adopted by the U.S. Marshals (USMS) COVOTF and both cases were elevated to a “Major Case” status within the USMS.
Over the course of the following months, COVOTF Deputy U.S. Marshals and Task Force Officers from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducted an aggressive investigation for both the missing children as well as Ballard.
An endangered missing alert issued by CBI alerted the public to information and photos of the children, Ballard, and details about the vehicle they may be traveling in. Investigators uncovered connections and travel spanning five different states across the western U.S. The COVOTF investigative team authored over 12 search warrants, conducted numerous interviews, spent countless hours on physical surveillance, and researched through hundreds of pages of data and records obtained. Eventually, those efforts paid off in a lead indicating Ballard was about to return home to Hotchkiss along with the children.
On Wednesday, a multi-agency team was assembled including law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Service in Grand Junction, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Hotchkiss Police Department, United States Postal Inspectors, Homeland Security Investigations, Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, Montrose Police Department, and the Colorado State Patrol.
The team set up surveillance on the Willow Heights residence in Hotchkiss and was able to make contact with Danielle Ballard, daughter of Jacqueline and aunt to Demi and King. Soon after, members of the joint law enforcement team made entry into the residence as the safety of the children was of the utmost priority. Ballard was located inside the home and taken into custody. The children were then located by the law enforcement team and immediately placed in the care of Child Protective Services workers who were also present.
Both Jacqueline and Danielle Ballard were transported to and booked into the Delta County Jail. They are both being held $50,000 cash only bond.
In 2015 the Justice for Juvenile Victims of Trafficking Act was passed, granting USMS the authority to assist in missing child cases. To manage these missing child cases, the U.S. Marshals Service formed the Missing Child Unit (MCU). The mission of the MCU is to develop, implement and oversee a comprehensive nationwide missing child investigative program, utilizing all available USMS investigative resources and disciplines in coordination with NCMEC. The MCU provides program development, review, and refinement with the ultimate goal of assisting federal, state and local partners to recover as many missing children as possible in the interest of public safety.
Agencies involved in the operation included:
- U.S. Marshals Service District of Colorado’s Violent Offender Task Force
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation – Grand Junction Office
- Hotchkiss Police Department
- Homeland Security Investigations
- United States Postal Inspector – Grand Junction Office
- Montrose County Sheriff’s Office
- Montrose Police Department
- Colorado State Patrol
- Delta Police Department
- Grand Junction Police Department
- Boulder Police Department
- U.S. Marshals Service’s Missing Child Unit
- U.S. Marshals Service’s Districts of Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada
The Colorado Violent Offender Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional fugitive task force that targets the most violent offenders to include those wanted for murder, assault, sex offenses, and other serious offenses throughout the state and country.
Nationally, the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive programs are carried out with local law enforcement in 94 district offices, 85 local fugitive task forces, eight regional task forces, as well as a growing network of offices in foreign countries. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) @USMSDenver.