Government likely to junk inter-parental child abduction bill


November 8, 2016

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

NEW DELHI: Despite international pressure, the Centre is likely to junk the bill on inter-parental child abduction, which deals with child custody issues for NRI couples and would have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention.

Child_Abduction_India.jpg

The Law Commission, though, recently submitted its report to the Law Ministry and stuck to its 2007 stand advising the government to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).

“We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” said a senior WCD Ministry official.

On June 22, 2016, the WCD Ministry had uploaded on its website a proposal to enact a draft of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016. Subsequently, the draft bill was placed on the website seeking comments.

The draft bill was prepared following a reference made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Law Commission of India and the WCD Ministry to examine the issue and consider whether recommendations should be made to enact a suitable law and for signing the Hague Convention.

However, the bill has since been removed from the ministry’s website.

The draft envisaged “prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a contracting state, and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are respected in other contracting states.”

It also proposed a central authority to discover the whereabouts of the child, to prevent further harm to any such child and to secure the voluntary return of the child to the signatory nation.
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds – that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad.

At an event last month she had said, “Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.”

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Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters


October 5, 2016

Source: alaskapublic.org

Child abduction is a nightmare not many parents have had to deal with, but Anchorage author Lizbeth Meredith knows first hand how terrifying it is. In 1994, her former husband kidnapped their two young daughters and took them to Greece.

10042016_pieces-of-me_book

It took two years to get them back. Meredith has written a memoir of that time called Pieces of Me. She says she tried to make her marriage work for herself and her girls but it just got worse.

MEREDITH: It had been a miserable, miserable union. But I thought, “I can do this. I can stay in this marriage”. It escalated in 1990 to the point of violence, that he strangled me. And the girls were there. One daughter was upstairs and the other one was watching. And they were very little. And I think something snapped in that moment, I had a friend who said, “You alone will know when it’s time to leave. Only you will know this.” And that was that moment where I thought, they cannot be raised like this. I don’t deserve this. They certainly don’t deserve this, and I don’t want them growing up thinking this is normal.

TOWNSEND: When you left, what kind of court battle did you have about custody and visiting?

MEREDITH: It was ugly. It was an extension of the control. I had made this bold move in ascent to get away from this kind of life and this abusive relationship. And so I was fortunate to have the assistance of Alaska Legal Services, and my husband hired an attorney and it was just very contentious. In the end, I got joint legal custody and sole physical custody. The girls were pretty tiny. Sometimes my former husband would visit during the days that he’d asked for and that was, quite honestly I needed a break, sometimes he would take the girls for visitation very regularly. I thought, well this could get better over time and then it would just change. And so he’d stop visiting or he’d start driving around the house, break into the house, look in the windows. One or two times, I got protective orders and it was just tense.

TOWNSEND: What kind of support did you have around you? How isolated did you feel in this?

MEREDITH: I by then, had been on food stamps, had finished my degree. I had a couple years of college before I got married and then got a job at a wake and abused women aid and crisis. And that was just a fabulous time for me because by then I’d made some friends back, I wasn’t isolated anymore, I had a roommate who was grandmotherly age for the girls. And she, to this day, still loves them. But I didn’t realize then was the more strong I felt, the more independent, the more I accomplished, the more at risk I would be. Even though I was no longer with my former husband, that for him was absolutely unacceptable. So when I graduated college, when I got the job, all of those things seemed to really enrage him.

TOWNSEND: He was still threatened somehow…

MEREDITH: Yes. He was still threatened and he one time did tell me, “I do these things because I think if I make you miserable enough, you’ll come back.”

TOWNSEND: 1994 arrives. You’ve had this sort of back and forth tense relationship and then one day he leaves with them. How did you first find out that he had actually left?

MEREDITH: I went to pick the children up. We just finished renegotiating that he wouldn’t come to my home to drop off the girls. That we would have to do it at the daycare. I showed up to pick the girls up on a snowy day after work and they weren’t there. And staff had not heard from him, which was kind of unusual. I thought, “Well. OK. We’ll just go figure this out.” And so I went back home, tried to make some phone calls and then it just became abundantly clear, “This is not normal.” So I went ahead and eventually called police. And I think the officer first said, “Ma’mm. He’s the dad. Why do you gotta be so hard on him? Can you just let him have extra time? Why does this have to be such a high-tone thing?” Because he didn’t know. And so when I explained it to him more clearly, he was like, “OK. I understand. So I’m going to do some digging around.” And then within a couple hours he heard conformation that two days before, the day that my kids went to be with their dad for visitation, that he had taken them and left the country.

TOWNSEND: I can’t imagine what you were feeling when you realized that he not only abducted your daughters, but had left the entire United States. What was that moment like?

MEREDITH: It was terrifying and yet almost immediately after, I realized the worst thing has happened, and if I can resolve this, if I can get the girls back, we are done. I can bring them home and this will be the end of all of these years of chaos.

 

Lizbeth Meredith’s new memoir is called Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters. Her book launch is Wednesday at UAA’s book store at 5 pm.

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Father Fights to Have His Kidnapped Child Returned From Guatemala


September 27, 2016

Source: Newswire.com

Wilmington, North Carolina – September 27, 2016 – (Newswire.com)

It was a day he has replayed in his head thousands of times. In 2012, Don Seagraves arrived at his ex-wife’s house for his scheduled visitation with his three-year-old son, Urijah. But when he got there, Urijah and Don’s ex-wife, Ivonne, were gone. Don suspected that Ivonne had taken their son to Guatemala without following the judge’s order.

don-seagraves

Don and Ivonne had a joint custodial agreement, which Don had faithfully upheld. But even though Ivonne committed a crime when she violated the Court’s custody order, Don faces an uphill battle to be reunited with his son.

Like Urijah, more than 1,000 outgoing international child abductions are reported to the U.S. State Department each year.  According to findings by the U.S. Congress in 2014, only one of every two abducted children taken from the U.S. to a foreign country with which the U.S. has reciprocal obligations under the Hague Child Abduction Convention are ever returned to the U.S.[1]

According to Don and Ivonne’s custody agreement, neither party was allowed to leave the State of North Carolina with Urijah, pursuant to a Court order.  Then Ivonne filed a motion for permission to take Urijah to visit her family in Guatemala.

Don objected. But Judge James H. Faison, III granted Ivonne permission, on the condition that she return to the United States by July 31, 2012.  Judge Faison’s court order also required Ivonne to share the telephone and mailing address where she and Urijah would be in Guatemala. But Ivonne left the U.S. in secret, leaving no information about her whereabouts. Soon after, an arrest warrant was issued by the Pender County Sheriff’s Office against Ivonne for felony parental kidnapping.

“In North Carolina, state law makes it a felony to keep a child under the age of 16 outside the state in violation of a court order,” says Mark Spencer Williams, attorney for Don Seagraves.  See N.C. GEN. STAT. § 14-320.1.  “There is also a federal law, the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1204, which makes what Ivonne did a criminal act.”

The Court awarded Don sole custody as a result of the kidnapping, but Don has still not been able to locate his son. He has spent the past four years searching for him, despite his limited financial and professional resources; Don is a high school graduate who works in the construction industry, and he does not speak Spanish. He could not afford an attorney, let alone the extraordinary costs associated with civil and criminal remedies in a foreign country.

Then Don made contact with Rice Law, a Wilmington North Carolina law firm. The firm took on Don’s case on a pro bono basis. With their help, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Interpol, the CUE Center for Missing Persons, law enforcement, and private investigators were used to locate Urijah. The U.S. State Department asked the government of Guatemala to issue an “Alerta Alba Kenneth” which is its equivalent of an “Amber Alert.”  On August 19, 2016, after a four-year search, Don was notified that Urijah had been found, living with Ivonne in Guatemala. Ivonne was served with legal documents under the Hague Treaty, which will require her to appear in court in Guatemala on Don’s petition seeking the return of Urijah.

Kidnapping_Guatemala.jpg

But there is another obstacle— Guatemala has a history of noncompliance with this Treaty and the U.S. State Department has not taken action to enforce the treaty in Urijah’s case.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention) provides that a child who has been a habitual resident of the United States before being removed to a foreign country, and who has been wrongfully retained in another country in violation of the left-behind parent’s custodial rights, should be promptly returned to the country of habitual residence.

One of the responsibilities of the U.S. Secretary of State is to address countries with a pattern of noncompliance, which can include withdrawal of U.S. assistance and requests for extradition of the kidnapper.[2]  However, even though the Hague Convention requires a hearing to be scheduled within six weeks, no hearing has even been scheduled in Don’s case. The State Department indicates it has not even been able to conduct a welfare and safety check on Urijah because “our Consular staff is restricted from entering the district where the child was located, due to security concerns.”

Kevin Brosnahan, spokesperson, Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. State Department, indicated that, “due to privacy considerations, we are not able to discuss this case specifically.” However, Brosnahan notes that the State Department annual reports show that since joining the Hague Convention in 2008, Guatemala has been cited five times for patterns of noncompliance.

As a result of Guatemala’s non-compliance and the U.S. State Department’s silence on the case, Don Seagraves has sought assistance from his elected officials, including Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). Seagraves is asking that the State Department implement the sanctions required by the Goldman act against Guatemala until it complies with the Hague Treaty. Don is also asking that Ivonne be extradited to the U.S. on the kidnapping charge.

According to foreignassistance.gov, $225 Million in U.S. Aid is sent to Guatemala, yet it is one of only three countries listed as non-compliant with the treaty by the U.S. State Department[3]. To date, Don is not aware of any specific action that the State Department has taken for Guatemala’s pattern of non-compliance.

It is cases like Urijah’s that have resulted in significant changes to our laws about international child abduction.  In 2004, Sean Goldman was abducted by his Brazilian mom, Bruna Bianchi, from her U.S. husband David. The case garnered national attention[4].  Ultimately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became involved in negotiations for the return of Sean Goldman[5]. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) put financial pressure on Brazil through his efforts to stop aid to Brazil until Sean Goldman was returned[6].  After nearly six years, Sean Goldman returned home and in 2014, President Obama signed into law the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (P.L. 113-150).  The new law requires the U.S. Secretary of State to take action against countries like Guatemala that have a pattern of non-compliance, which can include the suspension of assistance and request for extradition of the parent who kidnapped the child.

The attorneys and staff of Rice Law, PLLC have provided pro bono assistance to Mr. Seagraves since 2012.  According to Mark Spencer Williams, the Managing Partner at Rice Law, “the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Guatemala that would extend to child kidnapping, but our local law enforcement has indicated that Guatemala is not likely to extradite Ivonne Seagraves back to the U.S. to face criminal prosecution.”  According to Williams, “it is especially frustrating that countries sign these agreements but then do not abide by them.”

To help Seagraves with some of the expenses associated with this, the Missing Children’s Defense Fund, a North Carolina non-profit 501(c)(3) will hold a charity golf tournament Saturday, 22 October 2016 at Echo Farms Golf & Country Club in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Many local businesses and individuals are working to support the effort to reunite Don Seagraves with his son Urijah.  Neuwirth Motors has donated a new Jeep as a hole-in-one prize, and Buffalo Wild Wings is providing food and prizes. Numerous other sponsors have come forward to help Seagraves.

“Our goal is to raise enough money that Mr. Seagraves can hire an attorney in Guatemala to help seek enforcement of the Hague Treaty and so he can travel to Guatemala for these hearings,” said Williams.

For more information or to register for the charity golf tournament, see http://www.planmygolfevent.com/29883-BringUrijahHome/index.html.  Supporters of Seagraves have also setup a GoFundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/bringbackurijah for donations.

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Local father desperate after son is reportedly taken to Russia


September 23, 2016

Source: http://news10.com

A Queensbury man is raising awareness to a growing global issue of International Child Abduction. It happens when a child is wrongfully taken and held in another country by a parent.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

Corey McKeighan shares custody of his son Xavier with his mother who is from Russia.

Abducted_Russia

What was supposed to be a mother and son three week trip to her country, has McKeighan worried he will never get his son back.

Xavier is bright and full of energy. He just turned 4 on Monday.

“He was the best kid in the world. He was happy, he was funny.”

His ex-wife agreed to return on September 16th.

“The day before they were supposed to return, she had called me and said, ‘We’re not coming back and you’ll never see us again.’”

In a panic, McKeighan contacted the U.S. State Department, FBI, and congressional leaders. They are working with the foreign government to resolve this case that they say is international child abduction.

“It’s a gigantic problem,” International Family Law Attorney Jeremy Morley said.

Jeremy Morley

Morley has worked on hundreds of these types of cases. In Russia, it is difficult because our countries are not in a treaty relationship.

“We know that the Russian legal system is unpredictable. What I would do in a case like this is start the process by making contact with the taken parent and advising the taken parent of how dangerous their intended course of conduct is.”

Xavier was diagnosed with autism and his routine and treatment is back home in New York.

His father is still waiting to give his son a card for his 4th birthday.

“The first thing I would do is sing, ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ with him because that’s one of our favorite songs,” Corey said. “I feel like I keep hitting walls. I just keep seeing him in my heart and in my mind. It pushes me nonstop ever day, just trying to do what I can.”

A U.S. State Department official says:

“We are aware of the reports regarding an international parental child abduction case.  Due to privacy considerations, we decline to provide additional details.

One of the Department’s highest priorities is the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas. This is particularly true for children, who are among our most vulnerable citizens.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs, along with our Embassies and Consulates, works with parents and foreign governments to try to resolve these difficult cases. Generally speaking, in cases involving international parent-child abductions a U.S. Embassy or Consulate can facilitate contact with local authorities, provide information on local judicial and law enforcement processes, offer a list of attorneys and translators, and issue passports or other travel documents as appropriate under U.S law.”

McKeighan has created a Facebook Page to raise awareness of this global issue in the hopes of bringing Xavier back home to the United States.

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Facebook to help track missing children in Jamaica


June 13, 2016

Source: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com

MORE that 50 government and non-governmental agencies and organisations are participating in a specialised training workshop on missing children, being funded by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) and Facebook, in partnership with local advocacy organisation, Hear the Children’s Cry.

The three-day workshop, which is entitled ‘Investigative and Preventative Response to Missing Children: An interactive workshop for law enforcement’, commenced on Monday at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.

“Now, here is the stark reality: Since the death of Ananda Dean eight years ago, the cases of missing children have increased exponentially, as high as 70 per cent. When we began gathering and analysing the data eight years ago, there were certain parishes in Jamaica where there were no cases of missing children; today, the children are going missing from every single parish,” founder of Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine said in her address.

 Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine

She said that, on average, 150 Jamaican children are reported missing every month, with this figure sometimes increasing or decreasing in some months. She added that in 2015, almost 2,000 children were reported missing and since the first three months of this year, there have already been 646 reports of missing children.

“When you look across Jamaica, our statistics are really shocking with the number of children that go missing every year and not just missing but the number of children killed, harmed, neglected, malnourished — all the adverse experiences that you can think about where children are concerned, we have come across them and so solutions are urgently needed,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Novellete Grant stated.

Police Novellete Grant

“There are some parishes in Jamaica that also need special attention because there seems to be a concentration of missing children there. When you look at St Catherine as a parish, you recognise that there is a big problem there; Westmoreland and St. James also have big problems. The west is usually underserved in many of the solutions that we as a nation come up with, and I hope this workshop will try to find ways and means to extend work in the west,” Grant continued.

According to former FBI agent and director of trust and security at Facebook, Emily Vacher, the Internet is a powerful tool, as it has no boundaries and so, bringing it into the mix can actually change the course of an investigation.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a village to protect one as well and Facebook is very proud to be one very small part of that village. We will bring our resources to the children of Jamaica and, during this week, one of things I’m going to talk about is the Amber Alert we use in the US that has since been adapted to use on

Facebook….and a lot of our conversation this week will centre around how we can bring this technology to Jamaica,” Vacher said in her presentation.

As it relates to the global challenges regarding missing children, director of the Global Missing Children’s Network at ICMEC, Caroline Humer, stated that one main challenge is that of definition when it comes to missing children.

“What is considered missing? The definition by country, parish or jurisdiction can be different and so, how can we then know the extent of it and respond to it when the definition changes on a regular basis depending on who you talk to? So one of the challenges is that we are not always talking about the same issue when you’re speaking about missing children; cases include runaways, peer pressure, trafficking, and parental abduction. Missing should be all- inclusive, but a lot of times, depending on which region you are, that is not always the case,” Humer stated.

The workshop was expected to discuss areas such as searching for missing children and long-term missing investigations, among other areas.

In addition to search and rescue strategies, the training agenda was expected to deal with legislation, both domestic and international, as it relates to missing children, as well as the role of families and communities in addressing the problem.

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The Hague Convention and International Child Abduction


April 7, 2016

Source: huffingtonpost.com

The “Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction,” commonly called the Hague Convention, has been adopted by over 90 nations.

The_Hague_Convention_Sivil

 

It attempts to standardize and expedite the return of children and/or facilitate the exercise of visitation rights concerning children who are wrongly moved internationally, often in violation of family court orders.

This comment provides a very brief and incomplete educational overview of this difficult and tragic topic. Always consult an experienced family law attorney with particular expertise in international custody cases in specific situations.

The United States became a Hague Convention adoptee in 1988 and its provisions apply to U.S. related child abductions occurring after the adoption date. The Hague Convention is implemented by a U.S. federal statute, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). There are numerous governmental and private Web sources containing information and forms.

 

The following is a brief and incomplete overview of Hague Convention legal actions.

 

1. Hague Convention petitions may be filed in either state or federal court. Where to file is a strategic consideration. A complicating factor in any case is the active involvement of a governmental official, perhaps even taking custody of the child, particularly in a foreign nation.

 

2. The Hague Convention envisions (in theory at least) a mandatory and immediate return of a child under the age of 16 when less than one year has elapsed from the date of the wrongful act. Return is discretionary if more than one year has passed. Return of the child is not based upon the legal and factual merits of the underlying custody hearing. However, for reasons listed below, courts do not automatically grant Hague Convention petitions.

 

3. Promptly appeal a denial by a trial court. In federal court, this may require the filing of a notice of appeal within 30 days after entry of the judgment (Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 4). State court time periods for filing a notice of appeal may vary. Failure to timely appeal ends the case. This is a critical jurisdictional (ability to hear the case) matter.

 

4. The child must have been a “habitual resident” of a nation in which the petition originated. Of course, both nations involved must have adopted the Hague Convention.

 

5. “Wrongful removal” may occur before the actual date of the custody order and involves intent not to return. It must, however, be contrary to parental rights. The concept of “wrongful” is broadly interpreted. A custody order is always preferable and should typically be obtained prior to initiating a Hague Convention action.

Parental Kidnapping Rescue abducted children recovery

 

6. Not all nations recognize an equal right of parental custody prior to a divorce and a given nation may give the mother superior rights, particularly if the child’s parents are not lawfully married. This requires investigation.

 

7. Speed in filing a Hague Convention case is critical. The longer the passage of time, the more potentially possible it becomes that a court will conclude that the child is settled in the new environment and deny the petition. A related issue is if the petitioning parent has ever attempted to exercise her or his custody or visitation rights.

 

8. If there is concern that the abductor may flee with the child, one should obtain a judicially signed Order for Issuance of Warrant in Lieu of Writ of Habeas Corpus to allow the child to be immediately taken into custody. A somewhat archaic court order, the Writ of Ne Exeat Republica (“let him not go out of the republic”), might sometimes be available to detain the kidnapper. However, simply impounding a passport is the modern functional equivalent. An experienced attorney will be knowledgeable concerning the appropriate procedure to utilize in a specific situation.

 

9. Challenges to a Hague Convention petition include that the petitioner had no right of custody or access, the petitioner agreed to the removal or retention, that the child is of an age to object to the return, and that return would subject the child to a “grave risk.” “Grave risk” must be proven by clear and convincing evidence and may relate to issues surrounding the national environment or the parent. Will the child be in physical or psychological harm or otherwise placed in an intolerable situation? While a court has ultimate discretion to order a return, raising a question of grave risk may transform the proceedings into a de facto custody hearing.

 

10. Hague Convention hearings are to be expedited. The United States mandates that attorney’s fees and expenses be awarded to a successful applicant. This will not necessarily apply outside of the U.S. and a court may consider the financial resources of a party. Of course, typical debt collection issues may occur.

 

11. Hague Convention cases may be difficult due to (among other issues) initial problems in locating the missing parent and child, communication and translation issues, movement of the child from nation to nation, and overall expenses. Consulting an advocacy organization may be helpful. Research the numerous Web-based public and private resources.

 

12. Several related actions involve contacting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, attempting to obtain passport restrictions and alerts, and utilizing the provisions of legislation such as the International Parental Kidnapping Act, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Initiate a judicial action for interference with custody. Contact both state and federal law enforcement officials.

Federal and state criminal kidnapping statutes may be violated. Obtaining the return of the child must be an effort on multiple fronts. The services of a skilled internationally competent private investigator may be useful. Be aware that there is also a “Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption” that may or may not be applicable in a specific situation. A successful case will likely require a team of competent professionals.

This comment provides a brief and incomplete educational introduction to a difficult topic and is not intended to provide legal advice. Always consult an experienced attorney in specific situations.

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Parental Abduction Turns Violent


March 26, 2016

Source: http://alpenhornnews.com

The Sheriff’s Department is requesting the public assistance in locating a six-month-old infant, the child’s biological mother and the maternal grandmother after an unscheduled visitation turned violent on Thursday.

Re_Kidnap_Recovery_Abducted

In a statement to The Alpenhorn News by a Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, it was reported that Diana Cox, 30, resident of Crestline, and her mother, Isabel Scheif, 61, resident of Rancho Cucamonga, allegedly forced their way into the residence of the paternal grandmother in the 23000 block of Zurich Drive, Crestline. After forcing their way into the residence, the paternal grandmother, who was babysitting at the time, was assaulted and a six-month-old infant was forcibly removed from the home.

The Sheriff’s Department spokesperson told The Alpenhorn News that Cox and the infant’s father are currently separated and in a custody dispute. The Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said a custody hearing is pending but did not release the date. The Sheriff’s Department reported that currently, there is no court order to determine who has custody of the infant and the only information released was that the father had custody pending the hearing.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on May 10, Cox and Schleif were alleged to have arrived at the assault victim’s residence on Zurich Drive, Crestline, with Schleif reportedly knocking on the door. When a visiting family friend answered the knock, Schleif reportedly made a request that they wanted to visit the infant. The witness reportedly refused, stating that he did not know who they were, but that he would summon the grandmother for them. The two suspects waited outside while the witness walked downstairs to summon the paternal grandmother, and then stayed with the infant while the victim went to the front door.

When Cox and Schleif made their request to visit, the victim said she did not think it was a good idea at this time, since a custody hearing was approaching. Cox is alleged to have rushed inside the residence and started to assault the 63-year-old disabled woman, threw her to the floor and then continued into the house. While Cox ran downstairs, Schleif is alleged to have forcibly held the disabled victim down on the floor.

According to the witness, Cox rushed into the bedroom where the infant was laying in a crib, pushed the startled witness out of the way, grabbed the infant and ran back upstairs. According to the female victim, the two suspects ran from the residence, jumped into Cox’s vehicle and, with Cox allegedly driving and holding the unrestrained infant in her lap, left at a high rate of speed, reportedly running stop signs as they left.

The Sheriff’s Department spokesperson told The Alpenhorn News that the disabled female victim sustained bruises, scratches and contusions during the assault.

As of The Alpenhorn News’ press deadline, the suspects have not been located. The Sheriff’s Department reported that they have obtained arrest warrants for both Cox and Schleif, charging violation of California Penal Code (PC) Section 278.5, (child abduction), violation of PC Section 273a(a), (willfully placing a child in circumstances that endanger their person or health is endangered) and violation of PC Section 236, (unlawful imprisonment). While the exact bail of the warrant was not released, according to the San Bernardino County Uniform Bail Schedule, bail appears to be $100,000.

The Sheriff’s Department requested that the photographs of the two suspects be published to aid in the public’s assistance in locating the two suspects, but as of The Alpenhorn News’ press deadline, those photographs have not been received. The Sheriff’s Department did report that Cox’s vehicle is described as a black 2001 Jeep Cherokee with a California License of 4UQW913.

The Sheriff’s Department cautions anyone who encounters either of the two suspects not to approach the suspects if seen, but to call the Sheriff’s Department or 911. Anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of Cox, Schleif or the six-month-old infant, is urged to contact the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station at (909) 336-0600. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are urged to call the We-tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or you may leave information on the We-Tip Hotline at www.wetip.com.

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Parental Child Abduction: For Some Families, Reunions With Missing Children Present New Challenges


February 19, 2016

Source: Newsweek

On February 12, hours after Newsweek published an article about the search for Sage and Isaac Cook, missing brothers from Washington state, the FBI announced it had recovered the boys in Mexico and reunited them with their father, David Cook.

Sage and Isaac Cook

The recovery ended a five-and-a-half-month search for the boys, who law enforcement believes were abducted by their mother, Faye Ku. Cook first reported them missing in August 2015, after they didn’t return home to Seattle following a visit to see Ku in Los Angeles. “Sage and Isaac both appeared to be in stable health, but that’s just our impression from the short encounter,” Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for Seattle’s FBI division, which oversaw the case, says by email. Law enforcement also recovered Ku’s toddler son, Zephyr, who has a different father.

Months ago, when police searched Ku’s home, they found the boys’ electronic devices. They also recovered typed letters signed by Ku that instructed a friend to get rid of Ku’s belongings and told Cook, her ex-husband, “The children and I are safe among friends. Please do not send strangers who can only make life more dangerous for us.”

The FBI focused its search on areas of the country where it believed Ku had contacts, as well as in Taiwan, where Ku was born, and in Canada and Mexico. The latter turned out to be correct. The FBI learned Ku had illegally crossed the border with the children into Tijuana on August 29. The authorities then pursued leads, which led to pinpointing their location.

Law enforcement first learned that Ku and the boys were likely living in Mazatlán, Mexico, on February 7, and the next day Mexican authorities first spotted them. The FBI spokeswoman declined to offer more details about how the bureau developed its leads, citing the ongoing investigation and the fact that the FBI may use similar investigative techniques for future cases.

Mazatlán, in the state of Sinaloa, is a resort city of nearly 400,000 residents along the Pacific Ocean. It is a 20-hour drive south of Tijuana or two and a half hours by plane. Cook and his wife, Helen, believe Ku rented a house for her and the boys. The owner may have lived in the house or in an adjoining one. The boys shared a room, and the house may not have had hot running hot water or some basic appliances. The boys spent their time cooking, which they had previously liked to do, watching movies and learning to speak Chinese and Spanish, the Cooks say. “They didn’t mention having much interaction with other kids their age,” Cook says, “so we think they kind of stuck to each other, Faye and the kids.”

The Cooks say they flew to Mexico on February 11, just before the authorities expected to recover the boys and intercept Ku. Everything went as the authorities had planned, and the Cooks reunited with Sage and Isaac on Friday, February 12. They flew back to Seattle that day, connecting through Phoenix. “It was very emotional,” Cook says. The authorities minimized the time the boys spent without either parent, he adds, “but it was still a difficult transition for them.”

An FBI victim specialist accompanied the family on their trip home. “I think on the first flight it was pretty obvious to the people around us that something was going on,” Cook says. “There were teary reunions, and we were talking to the boys and trying to reassure them that everything was going to be all right.”

Cook and his wife brought Isaac, 9, a teddy bear and a book, Rick Riordan’s The Sword of Summer, which he read on the plane. For Sage, 15, they brought origami paper, which he crafted into a geometric structure.

If Ku gave the boys an explanation for why she took them to Mexico and why they could not see their father, Cook would not say. He did, however, explain that the reunion was not easy, especially for Isaac, who he says appeared upset on the first flight home. “We’re happy,” Cook says, “but we’re sensitive that the boys are conflicted, and we’re worried about them.”

Such behavior is common following family abductions, says Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, executive director of the Family Advocacy Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She says that upon recovery, children are often concerned about what will happen to their abductor. “It’s very, very common that when children are recovered from a family abduction situation that they do not want to return,” she says, speaking generally and not about the Cook case. “It’s very, very common to see acting out.”

That was the case for Sam Fastow, who now does public speaking and whose noncustodial father abducted him in 1997 when he was 10. Authorities recovered Fastow more than eight months later. “I saw my dad arrested right in front of me,” he says. “When I came home, I turned my frown kind of into a smile because that’s what I thought other people wanted…. But for me, an abductor didn’t go to jail. My dad went to jail. And even though he did something that was awful and not in my best interest, he’s still my dad.”

Fastow says his advice for the Cooks is to give one another time to heal. He initially took his anger out on his mother, but he later found closure by reconnecting with his father after the man had served time in prison. Fastow’s mother, Abby Potash, now runs Team Hope, a peer support network for family members of missing children, operated through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Gilmer-Tullis adds that recovered children may initially not trust the custodial parents, having heard stories from the abducting parents about why they needed to go into hiding. “The child may be frightened of them. There may be things that the child may say that will be harmful and hurtful to that parent,” Gilmer-Tullis says. “So we really try to prepare the parent to understand that and to be aware of the fact that this is what the child has been led to believe.”

That may lead to “divided loyalties” upon recovery, Gilmer-Tullis says. “You may see a lot of negative behavior…talking back, making threats of running away. The relationship can be very, very tenuous and can be very painful for the custodial parent. There can be times when things are very, very peaceful, and it appears that things are going really well, and then suddenly there can be something that just sets it off again.”

Sage-Isaac-Cook

Cook seems to be anticipating those triggers. “There are days or parts of days where everybody’s happy and everything’s just normal, and we don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security because of that,” he says. “We know that the boys are still hurting inside.”

Days after the reunification, Sage and Isaac appear smiling in photos with their father at home. Cook says the boys will likely attend therapy and will hopefully soon return to school. The boys shared a bed for at least their first few nights back, Cook says, and he slept in a sleeping bag on their bedroom floor. “I get nervous if I can’t see them or hear them,” he says.

Mexican authorities deported Ku and officers brought her to Los Angeles International Airport, where the FBI took her into custody. The FBI said Ku appeared in court on February 16 and will likely face charges related to international kidnapping. (The record of the hearing is not yet public.) The Cooks say they believe the FBI gave Ku the opportunity to assign a relative to care for her toddler son.

Today, Ku has support from people who feel that the family court system is discriminatory toward women. Her friends wrote on Facebook that she needs their support now more than ever. “I understand that she committed a crime and she is ultimately responsible for the choices she made,” one wrote, “but they were made out of love, not malice, and it seems like everyone could be a bit more compassionate of things.”

“I am very sorry Faye was caught and is facing life in prison for just trying to keep custody of her boys,” Cindy Dumas, executive director of Safe Kids International and the Women’s Coalition, says by email. “It’s so sad.”

Even Cook is unsure of what he wants to happen to his ex-wife. “I was married to the woman, and I don’t wish anything bad to her,” he says. “On the other hand, I think that she’s a danger to the boys, and we don’t really know how to protect them.”

“I’d be conflicted,” he adds, “with any outcome.”

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April Jones’ parents back campaign aimed at improving chances of rescuing abducted children


February 10, 2016

Source: walesonline.co.uk

The parents of murdered schoolgirl April Jones travelled to Cardiff to back the ‘Amber Alert’ campaign.

April-Coral-Paul-Jones

Coral and Paul Jones (left), the parents of murdered schoolgirl April Jones (right), are backing a campaign which aims to improve the chances of rescuing abducted children before they are harmed.

The parents of murdered schoolgirl April Jones have travelled to Cardiff to back a campaign aimed at improving the chances of rescuing abducted children before they are harmed.

Five-year-old April was snatched as she was playing near her home in Machynlleth and murdered by paedophile Mark Bridger, who is now serving a life sentence.

Coral and Paul Jones spoke at an event in the Wales Millennium Centre also attended by Wales MEP Kay Swinburne, who leads a cross-party group at the European Parliament which encourages groups and individuals to register with the Amber Alert network.

In the UK the network is known as Child Rescue Alert: it exists to spread details of missing children who are in danger as quickly as possible via mobile phones, apps, social media and business networks, as well as traditional news outlets.

‘Every second counts’

Coral said: “April went missing in 2012 and an alert was sent out then.

“It means a lot to me – they helped me out and I’d like other people to be helped as well.

“Even if it gets one child back home, so one family doesn’t have to go through what we went through, it’s worth it.”

Paul said: “Every second counts in a situation where a child has gone missing – it’s very important that as many people sign up as possible to this scheme.”

Coral is now campaigning for April’s Law, which would increase sentences for those convicted of sex crimes, ensured they were always on a register and that crucial members of the community, including teachers, were made aware when paedophiles moved into an area.

A chilling statistic from the United States has suggested that 76% of abducted children are murdered within three hours of being abducted.

Kay-Swinburne

‘The more people sign up, the more effective it’s going to be’

Dr Swinburne said: “Launching the campaign at the European Parliament in May last year was very valuable in that it encouraged different countries to talk together about making their alert systems more compatible with each others.

“But I think it’s important to step up the campaign in Wales, which is why we’re meeting in Cardiff Bay to encourage AMs to spread the word to their constituents.”

Tim Burton, deputy police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys, said: “This is a great initiative, and one that has particular resonance in our police area, which is where April’s family live.

April-Jones-Wales

“After the elections in May, it’s something that can be taken forward by all four incoming commissioners in Wales.”

Susanna Drury, director of policy and development for Missing People, one of the partner organisations involved in the project, said: “Our role is to get as many people as possible to sign up for Child Rescue Alert.

“The more people sign up, the more effective it’s going to be, and the more chance we’ve got of finding a child who is in danger.

Related: She was brutally murdered by a local man I’d said hello to when I passed him in the street’ April Jones’ sister describes how killer Mark Bridger destroyed her family

‘It’s a very quick and efficient system’

“Our other role is actually activating the alerts.

“On the police’s request, or on a request from the National Crime Agency, an alert will be issued by our team within minutes.

“It’s a very quick and efficient system, and we can get the message out either nationally or locally, or anything in between – whatever the police force thinks appropriate for that particular situation.”

At present around 300,000 people have signed up across the UK – and a range of partnerships with organisations like Facebook extends the reach even further.

People and organisations can sign up by visiting www.childrescuealert.org.uk .

Protests in Europe, the US in support of Romanian family whose children were taken by the Norwegian authorities


January 12, 2016

Source: Romania-Insider.com

Thousands of people went to the streets in Romania’s biggest cities, as well as in other European and American cities, in support of a Romanian family living in Norway, whose children had been taken by the Norwegian social services.

norway-family-children-protest

The Norwegian authorities already opened the international adoption procedure for the five children of the Bodnariu family.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square on Saturday, with similar protests being organized in other cities across the country such as Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, and Timisoara, reports local Mediafax. The protesters said they wanted the social investigation in Norway to be done faster and the Romanian authorities to be more actively involved in resolving this case so that the family could be reunited.

Thousands of people also protested in front of Norway’s Embassies in the US, Canada, Ireland, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark. With banners saying “Norway, stop child kidnapping,” “Reunite the Bodnariu family,” and “Children belong to the family,” the protestors asked Norway to stop what they called the abuses in this case and return the children to the Bodnariu family.

Romanian IT specialist Marius Bodnariu and his Norwegian wife Ruth Bodnariu, who is a nurse, have lived in Norway for the past 10 years. In mid-November last year, the Norwegian child protection services (Barnevernet) took the family’s five children and placed them in three separate foster homes.

The Norwegian authorities took over the children after receiving a complaint from the principal of Vevring School, where two of the children went. In this complaint, the principal “expressed her concerns regarding the girls’ religious upbringing, her understanding that the girls were being disciplined at home, and that she considered the parents and grandmother to be radical Christians,” according to a press release of the Bodnariu family.

Norwegian Police abductions

After arresting and interrogating the parents, the Norwegian authorities decided not to return the children to their family and accused the parents of physically abusing their children.

At the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ request, the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption in Romania started a social investigation and decided to ask the Norwegian authorities to place the children in the family of the paternal uncle living in Romania.

Last Friday, there was a new talk at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the ambassador of Norway in Bucharest, Tove Bruvik Westberg. During this talk, “both parties reiterated the importance of supported cooperation in Bodnariu family’s case,” reads the Ministry’s statement.

The Romanian ambassador to Norway will also hold a talk with representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion on January 13.

Norwegian authorities’ decision to take five children from their family spurs protest in Romania

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The Norwegian authorities already opened the international adoption procedure for the five children of the Bodnariu family.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square on Saturday, with similar protests being organized in other cities across the country such as Cluj-Napoca, Constanta, and Timisoara, reports local Mediafax. The protesters said they wanted the social investigation in Norway to be done faster and the Romanian authorities to be more actively involved in resolving this case so that the family could be reunited.

Thousands of people also protested in front of Norway’s Embassies in the US, Canada, Ireland, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark. With banners saying “Norway, stop child kidnapping,” “Reunite the Bodnariu family,” and “Children belong to the family,” the protestors asked Norway to stop what they called the abuses in this case and return the children to the Bodnariu family.

Romanian IT specialist Marius Bodnariu and his Norwegian wife Ruth Bodnariu, who is a nurse, have lived in Norway for the past 10 years. In mid-November last year, the Norwegian child protection services (Barnevernet) took the family’s five children and placed them in three separate foster homes. The Norwegian authorities took over the children after receiving a complaint from the principal of Vevring School, where two of the children went. In this complaint, the principal “expressed her concerns regarding the girls’ religious upbringing, her understanding that the girls were being disciplined at home, and that she considered the parents and grandmother to be radical Christians,” according to a press release of the Bodnariu family.

After arresting and interrogating the parents, the Norwegian authorities decided not to return the children to their family and accused the parents of physically abusing their children.

At the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ request, the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption in Romania started a social investigation and decided to ask the Norwegian authorities to place the children in the family of the paternal uncle living in Romania.

Last Friday, there was a new talk at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the ambassador of Norway in Bucharest, Tove Bruvik Westberg. During this talk, “both parties reiterated the importance of supported cooperation in Bodnariu family’s case,” reads the Ministry’s statement.

The Romanian ambassador to Norway will also hold a talk with representatives of the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion on January 13.

Norwegian authorities’ decision to take five children from their family spurs protest in Romania

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