Boy, 4, found; great-grandma arrested in mall parking lot

Rosa Welker

A 72-year-old Grand Junction woman was arrested early Sunday morning on suspicion of kidnapping her great-grandson after investigators say she failed to turn him over to his father.

Relatives of Rosa Mae Welker, however, say the woman has been 4-year-old Marshall Alan Joseph’s primary caretaker since he was born and was trying to ensure he would be safe before giving him to his father, who recently obtained full custody of Marshall.

Marshall’s parents reported him missing Friday evening after Welker called them to say Marshall was with her and was safe, Mesa County sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

After being unable to make contact with Welker directly, deputies worked with her family to arrange a meeting with Welker in the Mesa Mall parking lot. Marshall was returned to his father, and Welker was booked into the Mesa County Jail just after 1 a.m. Sunday. She was being held on a $5,000 bond.

Welker’s daughter, Karen Tweedy of Grand Junction, said her mother and sister, Susan Cleveland, have taken care of Marshall virtually all of his life.

She said Marshall’s father, James Joseph, lives out of state and Marshall’s mother, Gloria Miller, has been “in and out.”

“Here in the last little while, she basically abandoned him, and he stayed and they’ve taken care of him,” Tweedy said.

She said Miller late last week signed papers giving full custody of Marshall to Joseph.

Welker’s granddaughter, Hollie Perreira of Sonora, Calif., and Tweedy told The Daily Sentinel on Sunday that Marshall was happy living with Welker and that Welker wanted to protect him.

Tweedy said Joseph wouldn’t provide an address where he was living in North Dakota.

Welker “didn’t want to necessarily keep (Marshall) from (Joseph). She just wanted Marshall to not be emotionally scarred by being taken from something he’s known his entire life,” Tweedy said.

She said sheriff’s deputies assured the family they would contact human services caseworkers in the county where Joseph lives to ensure Marshall has a safe place to live.

Joseph has been arrested by western Colorado law enforcement agencies at least five times since 1999, including on felony charges of sexual assault on a child, burglary, theft and criminal mischief, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.

The sex assault charge was later dropped.

He was sentenced to the state Department of Corrections in 2001 on a burglary conviction. He was sent back to prison in 2004 for violating his parole, according to CBI.

Benjamin said Joseph posted bond at Mesa County Jail on Friday after a warrant was issued for his arrest for failing to appear in court.

Benjamin said although family members believe there are extenuating circumstances in Marshall’s situation, the law is black and white when it comes to custody issues.

She said deputies worked extensively to try to contact Welker but that she “didn’t come forward and contact law enforcement when she had lots of time to do that.”

Perreira said she hopes people understand that while her grandmother may not have made the best decision, her heart was in the right place.

“It’s just really hard. People are looking at this like she took (Marshall) from a loving, caring family, and that really wasn’t the case at all,” Perreira said.

“Maybe what she did wasn’t the best thing to do, but I just wish people wouldn’t judge her because you don’t know how you’re going to react in a situation until you’re put in it.”


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