A Stafford County woman who police say has been on the run with her four children for nearly eight months was arrested Wednesday at a gas station in Indiana, authorities said.

Melody Bannister, 34, was apprehended at a Speedway gas station in Plainfield, Ind., about 2:30 a.m. by Stafford detectives and members of the U.S. Marshals Service, said Stafford Sheriff’s spokeswoman Amanda Vicinanzo. She was wanted in Stafford on a felony charge of violating a court order, four misdemeanor abduction charges and a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report.

Her four children, ranging in age from 7 to 13, were found safe in the vehicle and turned over to Child Protective Services. They will be reunited with their father, Vicinanzo said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Bannister told authorities in early June that her children were being sexually abused by someone the family knew in Stafford. The Sheriff’s Office and Child Protective Services investigated the allegations and determined them to be unfounded.

Later that month, Bannister and the children left for a planned vacation to West Virginia. When the week was over, she informed authorities that she was going to visit a family friend in South Carolina and detectives didn’t hear from her again, until this week.

Her husband received custody of the children in July and Bannister refused to bring the children home, authorities said. A nationwide search later tracked her to multiple states, including Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado and Kentucky, but she was not found.

Authorities at the time said she was being assisted by Vision World, a religious group she belongs to. At one point, she was posting things on social media about the abuse she believed her children had suffered.

Bannister is being held at the Hendricks County Jail in Indiana.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404


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