After months of fighting, a Utah mother is finally reunited with her young daughter. FOX's Ben Winslow has all the details on the family journey to this tearful moment.
It's been two and a half months since Danielle Larsen last saw her daughter, Sophea -- and the girl has changed.
"So much. So much. She wasn't walking at that point... her hair is a lot longer." Lauren said.
Larsen isn't taking her eyes off her daughter. The girl was missing for months after Larsen says Jamie Webb, who's considered to be Sophea's father, beat her up back in February and took the girl.
Since then, Larsen has been fighting to try to get her daughter back, but because police considered it a "custody case," she had very few options.
"It was totally awful. like, all of that running around and everything is what probably made me feel like I wasn't going to get her back more than anything," she said.
After months of back and forth between police and the courts, Larsen finally got a judge's order to get custody of Sophea.
When police attempted to serve it, Webb fled and it triggered an endangered person alert for Sophea. In less than 24 hours, the girl was returned to her mother. Webb is still wanted by police for assault.
The sheriff credits Larsen's persistence with getting police to do something to bring her daughter back.
"I’ll applaud Danielle, she has gone through all the right steps with significant frustration, the system is by far not perfect," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.
"I don't think it should be that difficult for a mother to claim that her child is hers." Lauren said.
Larsen's case is already getting the attention of lawmakers, who say something needs to be done to fill some of the gaps that exist between police and the courts in custody cases.
Senator Todd Weiler says he's looking at whether legislation is necessary to end the run-around.
"I do think we have gaps in the law that really put people in bad places and that's what happened in this situation. This mother, who is raising her child, basically had her child kidnapped from her and when she went to the police and said yes, he's the father, they turned her away and said she's on her own," Weller said.