LEXINGTON, S.C. – A man and woman from Asheville, North Carolina, are accused of removing their biological children from foster care.

Joyce Ann Branch, 47, and David Eugene Ritchey, 48, are charged with two counts of custodial interference, according to arrest warrants.

“Based on communication records and information gathered during interviews, investigators have determined Branch and Ritchey circumvented the legal custody of their daughter and son when they removed them from a foster home,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said. “The children were in the North Carolina foster care system but had been placed in a home in Lexington County through the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.”

Branch and Ritchey concealed and transported the children to North Carolina, where they hid the children from legal guardians and law enforcement.

“Both Branch and Ritchey provided false statements about the children’s whereabouts to both their foster parents and law enforcement officers,” Koon said. “Thanks to assistance from law enforcement agencies in the Asheville area and the U.S. Marshals Service, the children were located and Branch and Ritchey were taken into custody.”

Koon said Branch and Ritchey are being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center while they await extradition to South Carolina.