US Representative Dusty Johnson’s office and the US military became interested in the case of a baby who was abducted from the Pine Ridge reservation in April.
Joann Hoof was born on April 27. Two days later, the baby’s father, Jacob Barajas, took her out of state without her mother’s consent. Lassandra Hoof said she was collecting her hospital bag in the parking lot of the Prairie Winds Hotel when she saw Barajas leaving with her baby.
She said she was visiting Barajas at the hotel where he was staying after the baby was born. The two are married, but their relationship came and went within months.
Barajas, a US Army sergeant, was on leave when Joann was born. After taking her out of state, he returned to his deployment at Camp Buehring, Kuwait with the 11th Combat Aviation Brigade. Lassandra Hoof reported the incident to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Department (OSTPD) and Missing Minnesota Children.
Joann is officially listed as missing on the South Dakota Attorney General’s Missing Persons List. The OSTPD provided the missing person’s information to the South Dakota attorney general’s office and is listed as the agency handling the case, according to Tim Bormann, chief of staff for the attorney general.
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Despite her missing status, Lassandra said she hasn’t received much help from law enforcement in locating her baby.
“Basically, they said custody hadn’t been established, so they really couldn’t do anything about it since he signed paternity on her,” Lassandra said.
Lassandra requested emergency temporary custody of the child and emergency temporary placement of the baby, which the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court granted on May 2. On May 24, the court granted Lassandra permanent guardianship of Joann, according to tribal court documents.
On June 1, Lassandra contacted Johnson’s office asking for help from constituents in locating Joann.
“I don’t know where my baby is, and I haven’t heard from him in over two weeks, and I can’t be sure that all the information I’ve received since she is 2 days old (are) exact. Not sure if she is being taken care of or who is taking care of her,” Lassandra wrote.
Johnson’s office became interested in the matter, emails show. David Forsythe, Johnson’s military and veterans services representative, wrote in an email that the office has contacted the military for assistance on “this important and urgent matter.”
Johnson’s office told the Journal it could not comment on an active case.
The Army responded with a two-page response and an update from Col. Matthew Hill, who states that Barajas’ unit released him from Camp Buehring on June 7 and he has returned to the United States.
“This unit has released Sergeant Barajas to minimize distractions to this unit currently conducting combat operations and to allow it to properly manage the outstanding child custody issue,” the letter reads.
The document confirmed that Barajas took Joann two days after she was born while she was on leave and informed military leaders of the situation on April 30. ‘t take action to get her baby back.
“They convinced the army to step in and do something instead of just ignoring it,” she said. “It’s kind of (expletive) that the army knew about all of this from day one, basically. I felt like they didn’t know what Jacob was doing, but they knew the next day. that he had taken it that he had taken it.
The court order granting temporary custody of Lassandra was set to expire if either parent failed to appear in court on May 24. Barajas did not attend the hearing and the army says he never received any documents relating to the hearing. Oglala Sioux Tribal Court documents indicate that the court served both parties with proof of service returned to court.
“He was aware of the hearing, he just chose not to acknowledge it,” Lassandra said.
The document also reveals that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the case on May 5 and had determined that it was a custody issue and that no federal investigation was ongoing. According to the letter, Lassandra was in contact with FBI agent Steve Berry about the case, but Lassandra denies ever speaking to anyone from the FBI.
She said Wilson Quintana, an investigator with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Department, was in contact with the FBI.
“I’ve never spoken to anyone by that name,” she said.
Lassandra said Quintana was mostly useless and refused to press charges against Barajas even though she was granted a custody hearing in tribal court, and the judge told her to take the order to Quintana so that he can file a complaint for abduction.
“He basically blocked me from filing a complaint and told me the judge had no authority to do so,” Lassandra said.
The Journal contacted the FBI about it. No response was received.
On May 9, Captain Monica Sparks, Barajas’ company commander, called local law enforcement where Joann is, and they performed a health and wellness check on the child. The sheriff sergeant who checked on the baby informed Sparks that she was safe and had adequate supplies for care.
“Nobody even told me that a wellness check had been done or that someone had contacted her and seen her,” said Lassandra, who asked law enforcement to perform another wellness check on the baby.
The case is currently in limbo. Lassandra sent the tribal court order to the county where Barajas filed for custody in hopes of having her recognized under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), a multi-state pact that helps ensure separated parents cannot move their children across the state. lines simply to avoid a custody order or a child access order.
As for the military, “The 11th Combat Aviation Brigade is seeking to quickly resolve this contentious civilian custody case. The 11th Combat Aviation Brigade has worked and continues to work with multiple law enforcement agencies. law concerning this issue of police custody.
— Contact Shalom Baer Gee at email@example.com —