Minnesota Dad, Steven Cross, Abandons Son In Foreclosed Home, Disappears
LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- A father abandoned his 11-year-old son last month, telling him in a letter to move in with neighbors because their south Minnesota home was in foreclosure, according to a warrant complaint seeking his arrest.
Steven Alexander Cross, 60, left two notes for his son, according to the complaint charging him with a gross misdemeanor of child neglect. One letter said their home in Lakeville was going to be sold at a sheriff's sale and instructed the boy to take his PlayStation and go to a neighbor's house. The other asked the neighbors to take care of his son. The boy has been placed in foster care.
"If this paper is wet it's because I am crying so bad. You know your dad loves you more than anything," the letter said. Elsewhere he wrote: "There are many, many great years ahead for you. Not so for me."
The letter also revealed to the boy that his mother, whom his father had told him had died, is still alive. Investigators don't know where she is.
"For a parent to abandon a child under these circumstances – it is both unusual and disturbing," Backstrom said.
Cross is believed to have fled to California but investigators say the trail has grown cold. Lakeville is 25 miles south of St. Paul.
Cross' two-story home was vacant this week, with foreclosure signs posted on the front door. The newspaper reported that a bank bought it for $336,925 in January.
Neighbors Traci Radtke said she was stunned. She said the family who took in the boy told her he broke down in tears when he arrived at their home.
"Heartbreaking," Radtke said. "It's a sad story."
The boy told police he didn't notice his father acting any differently on the night before he vanished. The boy also told a social worker he knew little about his family and that his father had told him his mother was dead.
Cross' letter said that wasn't true.
"Some good news is your mother is still alive. Though I do not think it is for the best," it said.
A petition for child protection names Katik Porter as the boy's mother. The boy said he last saw her when he was 2. Police don't know where she is.
Cross, a licensed architect, was awarded legal custody of the 11-year-old boy in 2001, according to the complaint. The mother received visitation privileges but apparently never used them. Those privileges were suspended in 2002.
Police tracked Cross' credit cards and bank accounts after he vanished but found no activity, prosecutors said. Investigators analyzed his home computer and found what looked like an Aug. 1 reservation for a three-night stay in the central California city of Morro Bay.
A week after Cross disappeared, a woman identifying herself as his ex-girlfriend called the family that had taken in the boy. She said Cross had emailed her from a library in Carmel, Calif., saying he was depressed and sleeping in the streets, the complaint said.
"I probably only have a couple of days ... No one I called would help me ... I didn't know what to do. I am scared and hopelessly depressed," Cross' email said, according to the complaint.
It's the last anyone heard from him.