Boy Found in Secret Room; Grandma Says Father was Molester

(AP Phoito/Chekevdia Family)
Photo: Richard Chekevdia

MARION, Ill. (CBS/AP) The mystery of a six-year-old boy who vanished two years ago has finally been solved. Authorities in Illinois found Richard Chekevdia locked in a tiny secret room at his grandmother's rural home.

But the grandma said Monday that she hid her 6-year-old grandson and his mother in a crawl space in her home for two years to keep the youngster safe during a custody dispute with the boy's father.

The grandmother, 51-year-old Diane Dobbs, is accused of helping to hide her grandson Ricky, ever since his father was awarded temporary custody two years ago.

Ricky and his mother, 30-year-old Shannon Wilfong, vanished in November 2007. They were found Friday hiding in a small crawl space in Dobbs' two-story home by police who were responding to a tip. Wilfong is charged with felony child abduction and was being held on $42,500 bond.

Dobbs said Monday that authorities haven't fully investigated allegations that Ricky's father, Mike Chekevdia, sexually abused him. She said she doesn't plan to plead guilty.

(Franklin County Sheriff's Office)
Photo: Diane Dobbs, Richard Chekevdia grandmother.

"We were on our own and we had to do what we had to do and that was make sure our grandson was safe," Dobbs said.

Chekevdia, a 48-year-old former police officer who's a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, has denied any wrongdoing.

"I was investigated three times, and I complied with everybody's desires and wishes in those investigations, and every one of those investigations were unfounded," Mike Chekevdia told "Good Morning America."

The boy has been staying with one of his father's relatives while state child-welfare workers continue to investigate the abuse claims.

Authorities have said the boy, who turns 7 on Sept. 14, was in good spirits and physically fit.

Dobbs said Ricky and his mother didn't live in the crawl space full time at her rural home in southern Illinois' Franklin County, about 120 miles southeast of St. Louis. She claimed the pair spent less than 5 minutes there during the past two years.

"My grandson had the run of the house, when we were outside we would go fishing, we would do weenie roasts, we've done fireworks on the Fourth of July, he's helped me plant my flower garden in the back," she said.

She said Wilfong had been home-schooling Ricky, who she described as a "very bright child."

"He's the light of my life," Dobbs said. "I've been there ever since that little boy was born."

(Family Photo)
Photo: Michael Chekevdia poses with his son, Ricky.

Ricky's father says he's biding his time before he's reunited with his son.

Mike Chekevdia was able to see his son Sept. 4, but only from a car window. He says he doesn't want to rush his son, but at the same time can't wait to get Ricky back into a normal life and have him meet up again with their dog Ace.

Ricky is a ward of the state staying with a relative of his father, Mike Chekevdia. A court hearing is scheduled on the boy's living arrangements.

Sept. 7, 2009 - Boy Found in Secret Room at Grandma's