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Mother missing with child for 10 years faces criminal charges


Child custody disputes usually are resolved in Connecticut family law courts. Sometimes, conflicts between parents escalate and criminal charges are applied. Custodial interference involves keeping a child from a parent with custodial rights, which, in some circumstances, can lead to a felony criminal charge of kidnapping.

A woman that U.S. marshals claimed disappeared for a decade with her daughter surrendered to authorities in New England recently. The mother fled with her 8-year-old daughter and husband – not the child's father -- in 2004. A fruitless 10-year search for the missing mother and girl led investigators across North, Central and South America.

Using an attorney as her spokesperson, the absent mother informed New England prosecutors last March she wished to surrender. The woman turned herself in after the alleged kidnapping story was featured on an August CNN television program called "The Hunt." Further attention was focused on the case when U.S. marshals elevated the mother's criminal status to "Fugitive of the Week."

Authorities don't know where the woman's 49-year-old husband and 18-year-old daughter are now. The child's father had full custody rights at the time the girl disappeared. U.S. marshals stated the mother, now 50, lost her rights to custody due to charges of parental mistreatment.

Officials said the mother was accused initially of unlawful flight to avoid persecution and noncustodial kidnapping. Reports did not say whether the conditions of surrender included any compromises by prosecutors.

Felony charges can have an immediate and long-term impact upon a defendant's life. Opportunities to obtain an education, secure employment or find housing can be limited or ruined following a release from prison. Attorneys attempt to minimize wide-ranging penalties before they occur through plea negotiations and other defense strategies.

Windham County defendants may not understand how serious consequences can be following criminal charges. Defense lawyers make certain clients understand the charges they are facing, while offering options to challenge allegations.

Source: CNN, "Fugitive mom on CNN's 'The Hunt' turns herself in; daughter still missing" Slma Shelbayah, Nov. 18, 2014