LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office says a mother and two children who went missing in 2019 have been found in New Mexico.

Katie Riford, 37, and her two children, Mason Riford and Olivia Riford-Diarbakerly, had not been seen since February 2019. Their disappearance followed an 18-month custody battle between the children’s mother and father.

“Katie filed a written response [to the court] which in part contained ‘I have been forced into hiding,'” said Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti.

Watch the full press conference:

Mason is now 4 years old, while Olivia is weeks away from turning 12. They are expected to be reunited with their father, Peter Diarbakerly, who lives in Massachusetts. It’s been since November 2018 since he saw his children.

Officials say the children are currently in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Captain Tracy Steen said she called Diarbakerly Wednesday night with the news after they were found. “It was a very emotional phone call,” she said. “I think he was very excited to hear the news.”

When they went missing, Diarbakerly was given full custody of the children.

On Thursday afternoon, Filicetti and Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman held a press conference sharing the new developments in this case. You can watch a replay on top of this page.

During the press conference, Filicetti and Seaman revealed that the three had been living in Albuquerque. Katie Riford was using a different name, while her children used new last names.

“Using information that was obtained from the FBI and independently gathered from the CIB our criminal investigations bureau turned our attention to Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Filicetti said, “I can only speculate that they went to New Mexico because it’s a very large school district at that location in Albuquerque and proof of who you are is it’s not required, that you provide much proof of who you are to register your kids in school or to get assistance, public-type assistance.”

While there, authorities believe mother and children received help in assuming new lives and hiding from law enforcement.

Riford has been taken into custody on the felony charge of custodial interference. Seaman believes that after extradition proceedings have concluded, she’ll be brought back to Western New York where she’ll face charges in the Town of Wheatfield.

“Due to bail reform, she’s most likely going to be released when she gets brought back here and we all I think we acknowledge that she’s a considerable flight risk because she’s already been to New Mexico,” Filicetti said.

As of the time of the conference, Diarbakerly was on his way to New Mexico to be reunited with Mason and Olivia.

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