IRON COUNTY, Utah — A woman is suing Iron County School District for releasing her 5-year-old to a stranger. The lawsuit is also against her babysitter who was supposed to be watching her three kids and instead left two in the care of a stranger, while she kidnapped the baby.
Emilee Winston hired a long-term babysitter, Emily Luciano, to watch Winston’s three children over the course of five months. The children were ages five, two, and five months.
On Nov. 6, 2020, Luciano sent a different woman named Jessica Evans, unknown to the children and to Winston, to pick up the oldest child from South Elementary School.
Court documents state, “Although Evans was not authorized to retrieve [the child] from school, South Elementary and Iron County School District violated policy by releasing them to an adult who did not have authorization.”
Unbeknownst to Winston, Luciano also dropped off the two-year-old with Evans. “Luciano then kidnapped Winston’s youngest child, and illegally boarded a plane to Denver International Airport,” telling Winston she was going to a dentist appointment in St. George, Utah.
Winston began to contact Luciano multiple times to pick up her children when Luciano began contacting Winston from blocked numbers, “stating her phone was about to die, and that they were all at a birthday party in Beaver, Utah.”
“Winston told Luciano that she was coming to get her children and demanded an address, but Luciano would not give her one.” At this point, Winston contacted law enforcement who pinged Luciano’s phone to Colorado Springs, CO.
Law enforcement located the oldest two children at the home of Jessica Evans and an AMBER alert was sent out for the recovery of the five-month-old child.
Federal agents found Luciano with the baby at the Denver International Airport.
According to court documents, “subsequent investigation revealed that Luciano had made contact with a woman through ‘Angel Adoption,’ pretending to be a 17-year-old girl who was intending to put her child up for adoption.”
Luciano was arrested and later pleaded to kidnapping. She remains in the Iron County Jail.
The lawsuit alleges the injuries and claims of Winston are based on the District’s failure to follow and adhere to its own policies and procedures regarding the release of a minor student to a non-custodial parent, and from Luciano’s “egregious actions.”
School policy at South Elementary and within the Iron County School District states, “[i]f the person picking up a student is not the parent, prior parental approval is required and the person picking the student up must be on the authorized Power School contact list or they will not be allowed to take the student.”
That procedure was not followed, allowing Winston’s child to be picked up and taken with a complete stranger. Evans was not a parent, was not on the authorized contact list, and did not have Winston’s prior approval from her to pick up her child from her.
Luciano is being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and the Iron County School District is being sued for negligence.
The suit alleges that the school district’s failure to follow policy enabled Luciano in her actions of kidnapping.
As of Friday afternoon, the Iron County School District filed to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that under the Utah’s Governmental Immunity Act the District is immune from Plaintiff’s claims because, as stated in her lawsuit, her injuries arise out of or resulted from the infliction of mental anguish.
The lawsuit claims damages in favor of Winston of at least $300,000 to be determined at trial.