Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award: Detective Randall Abbott, Hartford (WI) Police Department

In 2004, Detective Randall Abbott was assigned to investigate a child neglect case at Aurora Medical Center in Hartford, WI. Hospital staff reported their concerns that the parents of a newborn girl were involved in a baby-selling ring. They reported that the infant's mother, Angela Schmidt, had given birth to several other children that she had given up for adoption, possibly for money. Because of a delay in reporting through the Department of Homeland Security and before Detective Abbott could intervene, the infant was given to a woman named Denise Novotny, who took her to Missouri.

Over the next 5 years, Detective Abbott continued his investigation of the case. Angela, her husband David Schmidt, and Denise Novotny attempted to mask their activity as a surrogate birth. Detective Abbott contacted and worked with numerous agencies in both Wisconsin and Missouri. His investigation was complicated by the fact that Denise Novotny and her family moved several times during this period. As she did so, Detective Abbott contacted new agencies in Missouri.

Detective Abbott further enhanced his investigation by seeking out specialized resources to educate himself and, in turn, prosecutors, to ensure that they had the expertise to pursue this case. Ultimately, Detective Abbott coordinated with agencies from Missouri to have the young girl removed from the home and to have Denise Novotny and the Schmidts arrested and prosecuted. Detective Abbott learned that the girl had been living in an impoverished condition, was suffering from malnutrition, and had not received adequate medical or dental care.

In February 2009, the girl was placed in foster care and was ultimately adopted by her foster family. They have since sent several cards and pictures to Detective Abbott documenting the improvements that she has made in her new home. In May 2011, the Schmidts reached plea agreements in which David Schmidt was convicted of a felony offense and Angela Schmidt received two misdemeanors. Denise Novotny was also convicted of charges in Wisconsin and Missouri.

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