He went missing for two years. Then parents look behind the dresser.
Once a couple splits up, there’s a lot more than heartbreak, memories, and sadness. Children could be left with separation anxiety, particularly when they have to choose which parent to live with. Then, you’ve got to prepare yourself for the many legal fees and court appointments to come.
This story is about ex-couple Shannon and Michael and the mysterious disappearance of their son. Shannon Wilfong and Michael Chekov didn’t have the best relationship, but they continued to stay with each other. But in 2002, things got a lot more complicated when Shannon gave birth to their son, Ricky.
The couple tried making it work but continued to fight, so eventually, they broke up but shared custody of their son. They wanted to stay civil and co-parent their child. They devised a good co-parenting management system so that their separation wouldn’t hurt little Ricky. But their broken relationship left them distrust in one another and completely heartbroken.
Sadly, their amicable split turned sour really fast, particularly when Michael was deployed overseas. Since 1982, Michael was part of the National Guard and was stationed in West Frankfurt, which was close to Royalton, Illinois, his hometown. Michael knew that military fathers can still be great parents even if they’re miles away from home. He often reached out and tried to stay in touch with Ricky every chance he got.
His deployment made Ricky feel uneasy; he missed his father greatly, but Michael was deployed, not absent. Fortunately, Michael’s tour of duty was coming to an end. He was counting every minute of the day, and he wanted to fly home and give his boy the biggest hug in the world. But sadly, him coming back didn’t make things any easier.
Ricky was a victim of poor parenting and bad conflict management skills from his parents. When a couple divorces, the first thing on their to-do list should be to seek out counseling. But Shannon’s parenting was so dysfunctional; she was doing everything in her power to complicate the situation even more.
In 2007, Michael took Shannon to court because she had turned her back on their custody agreement. He was banking on the judge to force Shannon to obey the visitation rights she and Michael had agreed on. A court date was eventually set, but Shannon was a no-show. The judge took this into account and granted Michael temporary custody. But this was just the start of the battle.
Ricky and his mother, Shannon, vanished before Michael even got the chance to bring his son home. No one knew where they’d run off to. They were listed as missing in November of 2007, and a warrant was issued for Shannon when it became clear that she had run away with the kid.
Then a whole different account began to surface. A parent with legal custody of their kid cannot be arrested or charged with parental kidnapping, but that’s the thing: Shannon no longer had full custody of the child. Michael had every right to see his kid, especially now that he was granted temporary custody. Even though the law was on his side, Michael didn’t know what to do next. All he wanted to do was scream and barge into people’s housing and just look for his kid. But where would you begin to search first if your ex-wife and child went missing? He couldn’t take the law into his own hands.
Michael knew he needed to play by the rules, but he wasn’t about to sit down and wait until Shannon grew some sense and decided to come home. But Michael could have never expected the mother of his child to be so manipulative and abusive.
According to Shannon’s mother, Diane Dobbs, Michael abused Ricky. Both she and her daughter allegedly raised these concerns before, but there was no evidence that this was true. Dobbs, however, believed Shannon took Ricky somewhere where he’d be safe from Michael. Diane made it her mission to ruin Michael’s reputation.
Michael soon learned that Diane had placed lots of posters in her front yard claiming that Michael was a liar and a child abuser. Michael immediately assumed that Diane was keeping something a secret. Clearly, Diane was somehow in touch with Shannon. There was no other way to explain this woman’s vendetta against Michael. Even if she did believe that Ricky’s dad was abusive, why was she actively trying to destroy him? Why wasn’t she looking for her grandson?
Cops searched Diane’s house for any signs of Ricky, and this was Michael’s idea. But unfortunately, the police didn’t find any clues that could solve his disappearance. Two years passed, and Michael wasn’t about to give up on his son, even if it took him his entire life. This dad was willing to search all across if he had to.
After they searched the house, the cops had to refocus the investigation until they received an unexpected call. A tip led police to look at Diane’s home again. They investigated the two-story home but explored every corner and made sure not to miss anything. Then the cops noticed a wooden dresser that had been pushed up against a wall. The officers moved it to the side so that they could get a closer look at what was behind it. Suddenly, everything made sense.
There were many secrets inside Diane’s home, but this one really took the investigators by surprise. The cops found a hole that led to a small 12 feet long, five feet wide, and four-foot-tall dark room behind the dresser. Inside it, they found Shannon hiding there with Ricky.
Cops deduced that Diane had hidden her daughter and grandson away for almost two years. As they took the boy away, the cops were hit with a sad truth. All those years Michael spent searching for his boy finally paid off. He was glad the kid was alive and seemingly in good health, but rage took over fast the minute he realized what Shannon had done.
What happened to Ricky was so bizarre that the story quickly spread like wildfire. When the media got ahold of it, they deemed Ricky “the boy behind the wall,” but he didn’t get there by his own free will. Someone had forced him to spend all of those years in isolation, and now they needed to pay for what they’d done.
Sergeant Stan Diggs of the Illinois Police Department said, “We let him out of the car, and he ran around like he’d never seen outdoors. He added, “It was actually very sad. He was very happy to be outside. He said he never goes outside.”
The cops wanted to give Ricky and his dad the justice that they deserved. Shannon was taken into custody and charged with felony child abduction. Her mom, Diane, was also charged with aiding it and was arrested. Then she was freed on bail and tried spinning the story to make it seem like Ricky had enjoyed freedom over the last two years. But the evidence didn’t seem to match her story.
Neighbors were interviewed, and they claimed they never saw Ricky outside of Diane’s home. The child showed signs of isolation but was in good spirits. Sergeant Diggs added, “For someone who’s been isolated in that house with no other outside beings, he is a very social, very polite, and very talkative little boy.”
But for Diane and her daughter, luck had just about run out. After appearing on Good Morning America, Diane was once again arrested while she and her daughter fought the legal chair. Ricky was placed in the custody of Michael’s relatives while the case was thoroughly investigated.
In 2011, Shannon pled guilty and was fined $1,500. She was also on probation for two years. But Michael was finally cleared, and he got permanent custody of his son after the case was closed. He retired from the National Guard a year later. As a single dad, he managed to give Ricky a life at a stable home which he had been denied for several years.
The prosecutor and judge who agreed to such a laughable plea bargain may want to do a little digging and read some of the science behind parental alienation and parental abduction. A narcissistic parent can kidnap a child, and it’s no big deal according to the law. They’re not technically condoning it, but if you do take your child and run off, you’ll only get fined.
What Shannon Wilfong did was child abuse, and a soft sentence like the one she got sends a truly disturbing message. If you want to see more intriguing stories like this one,