Lawrence woman charged with kidnapping daughters

December 10, 2015


Samantha Elmer was arrested after returning to the U.S. from Europe She fled with the girls prior to a court hearing over custody Elmer also faces criminal charges in a separate Johnson County case.

Samantha Elmer Justin Bush

Justin Bush’s daughters, Morgan, 9, and Taylor, 11, returned home to their father and his wife, Stephanie Bush, on Wednesday. They had been overseas since Bush’s ex-wife took them and fled to Europe in October. Photo courtesy Eli Rosenberg/KMBC-TV

Federal prosecutors have charged a Lawrence woman who left the United States with her two daughters to avoid losing custody of them.

Samantha Elmer, 33, was arrested Tuesday after returning to the country from Europe with the girls, according to federal prosecutors.

She is charged with one count of international parental kidnapping and appeared in court on the charge Wednesday.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., Elmer drove to Chicago with her 11- and 9-year-old daughters and boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 26.

The girls’ father, who was seeking full custody of his daughters, contacted authorities a few days later after learning the girls had not been to school since Oct. 21, according to the documents.

Two girls taken to Europe by fugitive mother are returned to father in Smithville

A hearing on his custody request had been scheduled for Nov. 2, and Elmer was also due in Johnson County District Court on Oct. 30 where she was facing charges of identity theft and misuse of a credit card. A warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to show up.

Investigators discovered that Elmer had obtained passports for herself and her daughters on Oct. 23, and she purchased tickets for the flight to Turkey at a Lawrence travel agency on Oct. 26.

They also learned that Elmer’s current husband had wired money to her in Europe on several occasions. Her husband told authorities that she left because she was afraid of losing custody of her daughters.

He also told them he didn’t believe she intended to return to the United States.

A friend of the husband who helped him wire money to Elmer told investigators that the money was sent to a town in Italy.

The girls have now been reunited with their father, who lives in Smithville. Elmer is being held in federal custody.

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