Missing Northland boy, father found aliveWyatt Nordrum, 7, and his father, James Leon Nordrum Jr., 41, were found in a rural cabin in St. Louis County’s Stoney Brook Township late Saturday night with the help of tips from the public, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
A nearly two-week-long search for a missing Northland boy and his father ended late Saturday night with the boy recovered safely, and the father — who allegedly kidnapped his son — hospitalized with self-inflicted wounds.
Wyatt Nordrum, 7, of Brookston, and his father, James Leon Nordrum Jr., 41, were found in a rural cabin in St. Louis County’s Stoney Brook Township with the help of tips from the public, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.
Wyatt had been missing since March 27 after being taken by his father, who was embroiled in a custody battle with the boy’s mother, Candice Nordrum of Fort Frances, Ontario.
Nordrum Jr. was in stable condition in intensive care Sunday after surgery at St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth. He sustained self-inflicted injuries to his neck, according to the sheriff’s report.
Candice Nordrum, who had filed for divorce from Nordrum Jr. last year, declined interview requests on Sunday, but she did issue a statement through her attorney, Craig Hunter, about what she called “the trauma in my life and the life of my son.”
“Wyatt is home safe. He will begin school tomorrow and have some sense of normalcy in his life again. I have no comment as to the state of my husband.
“I just keep praying and forgiving. The Lord will help us through,” she said.
Terri Port Wright, an attorney representing Nordrum Jr., confirmed Wyatt had been reunited with his mother and that the boy was not injured.
“He was safe the whole time,” Port Wright told the News Tribune.
When Wyatt first went missing, the sheriff’s office said Nordrum Jr. had “indicated he would harm (the) child if he lost custody,” though Nordrum Jr.’s family disputed that.
Port Wright said she didn’t know how law-enforcement agents were able to locate the Nordrums, who were found about 11:30 p.m. Saturday holed up in a cabin about 25 miles west of Duluth on Lost Lake, near Anderson Road in Stoney Brook Township.
The cabin is about 5 miles west of the Brookston Road address St. Louis County authorities gave as Nordrum Jr.’s residence.
Port Wright said it was her understanding that Nordrum Jr. injured himself when he learned that he was about to be caught. She said she doesn’t know how he hurt himself, but said it was not with a firearm.
Law enforcement agents working to arrest Nordrum Jr. and to recover Wyatt woke Bob and Joann Anderson, who live nearby, about midnight.
“Our dog is in the basement for the night. He started barking and barking and barking,” Bob Anderson told the News Tribune on Sunday.
Anderson looked out of the couple’s house and saw a van belonging to a first responder parked in his driveway. Anderson went outside and saw “eight or 10 cars in the field with flashing lights.”
A helicopter later landed in the field, Anderson said.
Anderson saw a man with a flashlight approaching and asked the man to identify himself. The man turned out to be a Carlton County deputy sheriff who told Anderson that Nordrum Jr. and his son had been found nearby. Anderson said the deputy told him that Nordrum Jr. “tried to commit suicide. He tried to cut his own throat.”
The couple said they had not seen anyone at the cabin recently but noted that they can’t see the cabin directly from their place. They said they have no idea why Nordrum Jr. would be near their property. Joann Anderson said, “We had never seen him or his son.”
Nordrum Jr. was arrested and faces initial charges of kidnapping and deprivation of parental rights, according to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, which said additional charges could be filed, pending further investigation.
The Fond du Lac and Cloquet police departments, Carlton County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension assisted the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office in locating the missing father and son.
Candice Nordrum filed to divorce Nordrum Jr. in January 2011.
Until recently, he had full custody of his son, but on March 27, Nordrum Jr. agreed to shift all custody rights to his estranged wife in Fort Frances. Nordrum Jr. had consented to the change of custody in the face of allegations that he and his father, James Leon Nordrum Sr., 59, had planted drugs and a gun in Candice Nordrum’s vehicle and then had tipped off border agents when she was returning Wyatt for visitation in April of last year.
Nordrum Jr. was to relinquish custody of his son to Candice Nordrum at a court hearing March 27, but he never showed. The disappearance of Wyatt and Nordrum Jr. prompted a statewide Amber Alert.
Repeated messages left on the cell phone and at the residence of Nordrum Sr. on Sunday were not returned.
News Tribune investigations editor Brandon Stahl and staff writers Steve Kuchera and Peter Passi contributed to this report.