CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Katie Riford, the Wheatfield mother who went missing with her two children in 2019, is back in Western New York and News 4 exclusively spoke with her.
On March 3, Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti said Riford and her children, Olivia and Mason, were found safe in Albuquerque, N.M. after not being seen in more than three years. Their disappearance followed a custody battle between the children’s mother and father.
We’ve waited three years to hear from Katie Riford and now we have. At 8:30 p.m., she landed at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and was escorted out by Niagara County Sheriff’s deputies in street clothes.
“I am a domestic violence victim and my children are also victims of abuse,” Riford told News 4. “The truth is going to come out, the corruption is going to be exposed, my family and I are going to fight tirelessly until my children are safely returned home to their family and free from all forms of abuse.”
As for why she went to New Mexico, Riford said they have plenty of resources for domestic violence victims that Western New York does not have but she would not get into specifics on what those resources were.
The children’s father denied Riford’s allegations of abuse and Sheriff Filicetti added that an investigation did not reveal any abuse.
She’s expected to be arraigned on Thursday and is scheduled to appear in family court. She faces custodial interference in the first degree, a Class E felony with a maximum sentence of four years in prison, and failure to obey a family court warrant.
“Due to bail reform, she is most likely going to be released when she gets brought back here. We all acknowledge she is a considerable flight risk because she’s already been to New Mexico, but we will wait to see how that plays out,” Sheriff Filicetti said on March 3.
At a hearing in New Mexico in early March, Riford waived extradition.
During the same press conference, the Sheriff added the children would be reunited with their father who lives in Massachusetts. News 4 has reached out to their father, Peter Diarbakerly, but has not heard back.
There are no federal charges against Riford at this time and the Sheriff said he believes Riford’s family in both New Mexico and Western New York assisted her with her disappearance. Riford was using different names while in New Mexico while her children kept their first names, but went by a different last name. Authorities believe the mother and her children received help in creating their new identities and hiding from law enforcement.
Watch our full interview with Katie Riford below:
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.