MADBURY — Anita Austin has a photo of her three granddaughters on a mechanical horse ride saved as wallpaper on her cell phone.
It’s been months since the Madbury woman last saw the girls, who went missing before a family court hearing in October. Since then, Austin has been awarded permanent guardianship of Lilly Waniski, 10, Kaylee Durant, 8, and Avarie Williams, 2.
The problem is finding them and their mother.
“We believe they’re out of state at this point,” Austin said Tuesday morning. She sat down with the New Hampshire Union Leader hoping that someone may have information as to the whereabouts of the children.
Austin explained that the last time she saw her 26-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Lee, was Sept. 11, 2018. Austin and her husband, Burton, had started the process of gaining guardianship of the children and had gotten ex parte orders from the court’s family division in Ossipee.
Austin was concerned at the time that the children had not been enrolled in school for a year, were living in tents, were being underfed and that Lee’s boyfriend, 31-year-old Michael Williams, had hit one of the children.
Austin said she reported her concerns about physical abuse to the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. Austin said that on March 25, Lauren Campbell in the Conway District Office wrote to her, saying the division has determined the matter to be incomplete because her grandchildren have not been located.
Austin said she knew there would be issues getting Lee and Williams to agree to have the children live in Madbury, especially since 2-year-old Avarie is the biological daughter of Williams. So, on the last day she saw them, Aug. 27, 2018, Austin took their photos individually standing in front of a bedroom door, just in case her daughter fled.
“I knew I was going to need this. It was sad,” Austin said of the photos, which are now being used for missing persons posters she is distributing.
Despite her sadness and worry, Austin has hope Lilly, Kaylee and Avarie will be found and brought back to Madbury so they can enjoy a simple life with “Grammie” and “Gump Gump.”
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has photos of the girls posted online and the New England State Police Information Network posted a stop and hold/arrest alert for Lee and Williams at the end of last month.
According to the information network, Lee and Williams are believed to be driving a red Chrysler Town & Country minivan with NH Veteran plates V51582 or a silver Chevrolet Malibu with NH Veteran plates V43335.
The post says police officers who approach the couple should use caution as Lee and Williams are known to carry firearms and have drawn a firearm on police in the past.
Austin also has faith in the family court system, where a judge has determined that Lee and Williams should not have contact with the children.
On Feb. 25, Judge Charles Greenhalgh of the 3rd Circuit Court Family Division in Ossipee found clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the girls required substitution or supplementation of parental care and supervision to provide for their essential physical and safety needs. He appointed the Austins permanent guardians.
Madbury Police Chief Joseph McGann said Tuesday his department is working with the Strafford County Attorney’s Office and reaching out to different police agencies throughout the country to see if they can locate the girls.
“That’s the most important thing at this point in time,” McGann said.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Lilly Waniski, Kaylee Durant and Avarie Williams can call Madbury police at 603-742-5566.