Police rescue 2 kids in alleged abduction from stolen sailboat

Posted at 7:02 PM, Sep 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-08 19:02:26-04

Authorities say they have rescued two young children who were allegedly abducted from their California home and taken by their father on a stolen sailboat.

The stolen sailboat was spotted sailing off the Monterey Peninsula on Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The father, Christopher Maffei, was taken into custody, the Coast Guard said.

Earlier Friday, authorities said the 41-foot sailboat, dubbed the Unleashed, was spotted between Pillar Point and Monterey and was being followed by Coast Guard aircraft.

Maffei, 43, is accused of abducting his 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son from the South San Francisco home of the mother, Jennifer Hipon, on Tuesday, according to police.

The children’s parents had been involved in some type of custody situation, according to South San Francisco Police Department Sgt. Bruce McPhillips, but he said he did know the specifics. Maffei did not live with the children.

On Wednesday, Maffei’s rental car was found in the parking lot of the Alameda marina from which the sailboat had been stolen, police said.

The vessel apparently left the marina late Tuesday with no navigation lights. It was reported stolen a few hours later and police made the connection to Maffei after the children’s mother told them that he might get on a vessel, McPhillips said.

On Thursday, the mother pleaded for her children’s safe return.

“I want the Coast Guard, the Navy, anybody who has a boat: Please look for my children and bring them back to me. … I am afraid for my children’s lives,” Hipon told KPIX.

The children’s grandmother said she is aware of the rescue.

“This is the best news,” Jean Hipon said. “I have not been able to eat or sleep for the last few days. I am going to hug my grandchildren and never let them go.”