Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 6: The little girl in the blue dress

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

How long does a father's love last? MSNBC’s Dateline asked the question….

When Richard Pulsifer arrived to see his children, 6-year-old Richard, Jr. and 3-year-old Michelle, on a summer day in 1969, he found that the house where his former wife and her new boyfriend had been living was empty.

He went to the authorities, to law enforcement but was rebuffed at every turn. No one was willing to take his children’s disappearance seriously.

The police wouldn’t take a missing persons report, because the children were presumed to be with their mother, who had full custody. She had the right to do whatever she wanted to do with the children.

A recent story on MSNBC’s Dateline tells this tragic story of a parental kidnapping, of a father’s broken heart, of a little girl who fell through the cracks in the worst possible way….

“(MSNBC): Even though Donna had full custody of the kids, Dick had never imagined that his ex-wife and her boyfriend could just take the kids and vanish without his permission. He immediately complained to local authorities.

“Dick Pulsifer: ‘I went to the social services. Told them-- I said, "They can't do that. It's illegal." And they said, "Well, yes, she can. She's got full custody; she can do what she wants."

“(MSNBC): He was helpless -- and heart sick. Where were they? It would be months, and he'd receive another blow -- news that his wife and son were accounted for, but his daughter, Michelle, was not. Somehow, Michelle was gone.”

Michelle had vanished from the face of the earth.

All that was left was a handful of photographs, memories, and a father’s love.

He began a search for his little girl that would take years, decades, lifetimes….

“(MSNBC) John Larson: ’What is life like when you have to wonder and look at every little girl you see?’

Dick Pulsifer: ‘You're always seeing that child somewhere, walking through a crowd. Wow, that could have been her, you know.’

(MSNBC) John Larson: ‘And this isn't like once a year.’

Dick Pulsifer: ‘No, it's all the time.’”

Nearly forty years after Michelle vanished, the police finally took the case of the missing little girl seriously enough to open an investigation.

See the story of Michelle Pulsifer, here:


Coming next:

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 7: Comments on “The little girl in the blue dress”


Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at

Blogolitical Sean at


Take Root link: Survivors of parental and family abductions speak out

Link to Find the Children: Become aware; Save a child’s life

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 5: Oregon's anti-kidnapping law

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 200,000 American children experience the trauma of abduction by a parent, a family member or other persons known to the victim.

Some children are abducted back and forth repeatedly, others disappear forever.

Existing state and federal laws have proven to be inadequate to deal with the problem, as the staggering numbers attest.

In all cases, the harm to the child victim is so severe that the best strategy is to prevent the abduction from taking place in the first place.

Aaron’s Law, Senate Bill 1041, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2005, is designed to provide relief to the victims of parental and family abductions and to deter parents from kidnapping their own children in the first place through financial and other sanctions.

Aaron’s Law is unique in the nation, bypassing the criminal and traditional family court approaches by creating a civil cause of action for the crime of custodial interference, which applies if the child is removed from the state of Oregon.

Aaron’s Law is named in memory of Aaron Cruz, who was abducted from Oregon along with his brother and two sisters in 1996 by his mother, other family members and several of their church associates, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot who is completely unrelated to any member of the Cruz family, led this group, which included David Holliday and Evelyn Taylor, Mormon officials in the Hillsboro area.

Aaron later died, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had
taken him, concealed him and then left him behind.

Aaron’s Law operates as a deterrent to parental and family abductions by providing financial sanctions against all participants in the crime, those who “take, entice or keep” a child from the child’s lawful custodial parent or in violation
of a joint custody order.

Aaron’s Law also operates as a deterrent by authorizing the Court to appoint legal and mental health professionals assigned to protect the child.

Aaron’s Law contains a provision authorizing the Court to require the parties to attend counseling sessions to understand the harm they are inflicting on their own children.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assess the costs of the professional services to the perpetrators, an additional financial deterrent.

Aaron’s Law may apply to any Oregon child abduction occurring after the date the Governor signed the bill into law.

While this law applies only to children taken from the state of Oregon, it can serve as a model for other states.

Link to Aaron’s Law:


Coming next: Parental abduction wisdom, pt 6:


Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at
Blogolitical Sean at

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 4: Parental kidnappings up 70%

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

“’Right then, I knew my life was over….’”

“American Janet Greer lost her 3-year-old daughter, Dowsha, 12 years ago when her boyfriend took the child from Hawaii to Egypt. She had pleaded with a judge for sole custody when the unmarried couple split fearing her ex might flee. The judge refused. Her worst fear was realized when Dowsha never returned from a weekend visit with her father.

"’Right then I knew my life was over,’ recalled Greer. ‘Right then I knew he had her.’

“Greer fought for years to see her daughter, even winning a ruling in the Egyptian courts. The ruling was never enforced.” (Source: ABC News)

The U.S. State Department reports that parental abductions involving American children are rising. There were more than 1,000 new cases of American children taken by a parent to another country in 2008 — a 70 percent increase in the past two years.

There is probably a corresponding increase in the number of domestic U.S. parental abductions, but that data is difficult to find.

The U.S. Department of Justice has calculated the total number of parental abductions across the U.S. at more than 200,000 cases each year.

This figure is probably an undercount, as many parental abduction cases that are reported to local law enforcement by victims go no further than that.

In Oregon, for example, the State Police operates its Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, but the OSP rarely receives reports regarding abducted children from local police agencies and its clearinghouse site is both hard to find and updated infrequently.

The unstable U.S. economy is one factor behind the increase in international parental abductions. It has led to layoffs of foreign-born workers, which might prompt a parent to return to his or her home country and take a child with them.

Other reasons include the increase in binational marriages and the combination of international travel and divorce.

“’The international tug-of-wars get even more difficult to resolve when nations
disagree on which parent should keep a child. It's not just a U.S. trend, it's a worldwide trend,’ said Julie Furuta-Toy, director of the Office of Children's Issues at the U.S. Department of State.

"’In the long term, it is the children who suffer,’ she said.”

Parental abductions are cases of extreme cruelty, where one parent’s desire to harm the other parent falls one step short of actual homicide, leading the parent to commit a criminal act despite the obvious severe harm to the child.

“Rick Paris was taken from Argentina at age 6 in the 1950s and brought to the states for polio treatment by his American mother. She told him his father and grandfather were killed in a car accident. Mother and son moved several times and she often changed their names.

“At 16, Paris learned his father was still alive. He called his father who arranged a reunion in Argentina. The two stayed close until Paris' father died two years ago. Paris believes the psychological toll on the children in abduction cases is huge, regardless of what may appear to be happy reunions.

"’Parental kidnappings are definitely one of those gifts that keeps on giving,’ said Paris. ‘It deeply and fundamentally affects your ability to trust, your ability to create meaningful relationships. It sure does stay with you forever.’

In a case that recently made some stir in the media, David Goldman has been fighting to get his son back ever since his former wife took the child to Brazil and never returned. She later died, and the boy has been living with his stepfather in Brazil.

“U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, has been advocating for Goldman. He recently introduced a bill that would remove Brazil from a duty-free trade program until Goldman's son is returned to him in the U.S.

“Since beginning his advocacy, Smith said he has heard from people across the country entangled in international child custody disputes. Goldman's fight has inspired others and brought needed attention to the issue, he said.

"’By his heroic efforts to get his son back, he's not only brought hope and renewed activity for other families, he's lifted the veil off this egregious problem for the United States Congress,’ Smith said.

"’This is a serious issue globally that Congress, the White House and the State Department has to do much more than we've done to date.’"

One of the greatest barriers to reducing the incidence of parental abductions is the complacency of the general public and of elected leaders at all levels of government.

Most can’t be bothered….



Coming next: Parental abduction wisdom, pt 5:

Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at

Blogolitical Sean at

Friday, July 24, 2009

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 3: The most dangerous kidnappers are parents

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Parents who murder their own children shock us to the core, and cases of children abducted by strangers frighten us, move us to watch our children ever more closely. Children abducted by strangers are almost always murdered.

Both types of cases generate headlines, the shock and fright so central to who we are as human beings, the crimes so heinous, so alien to our souls, that they cut through all of the distractions, push even the news of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the inner pages or behind the weathercast.

Recently, in the Portland Metro area alone, a mother threw her two small children off the Sellwood Bridge, drowning her son, a father in Hillsboro murdered his two children with a handgun, then turned it on himself, and a couple chose to watch their child suffer and die rather than seek the medical attention that would have saved her life.

These are parents—criminal parents—but they are by far not the only ones who use their position and power as parents to commit crimes against their own children.

Children are far more likely to be kidnapped by one of their parents than by a stranger, but those cases rarely generate interest from either the media or law enforcement.

Among the approximately 200,000 reports of child abductions that take place across the US each year, only about 100 are by strangers, by persons unknown to (you) or (your) child. The rest are by parents and other family members, and they all damage the child(ren).

We are all busy people, and if the media and the police don’t recognize a problem, don’t see a crisis situation unfolding in a particular case of a missing child, then no one else will, either.

“Experts say there is a perception among the public and law enforcement that children kidnapped by their parents are not endangered. After all, figures from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention show that only 4 percent of children abducted by their parents are physically harmed.”

See ABC News: The most dangerous kidnappers: parents

Some parents commit murder; some kill their children through criminal neglect; far too many others take their (your) child and disappear.

Children are most at risk of a parental or family abduction within the first five years following a divorce or separation.

My four children disappeared from Oregon 14 years ago in a kidnapping noted in The Oregonian’s August 1996 editorial “Say Yes for Kids”, published seven months after my kids were abducted. It was the only media attention the case ever generated, and it prompted no response from the police or from anyone else.

My son Aaron died later, essentially from long-term medical neglect, heartbreak and abandonment, alone in an empty house in Payson, Utah, where his mother had taken him and then left him behind.

The Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1041 (Aaron’s Law) in 2005, shortly after I buried my son, his arms covered with the scars of self-inflicted knife wounds, cuts he made in the months following the abduction, when he was largely under the control of Kory Wright, a Mormon zealot carrying out an old-fashioned Mormon shunning, which was the primary motive for the kidnapping.

Aaron’s Law is a landmark bill, first-in-the-nation legislation, providing both victims and Oregon courts more tools to resolve and prevent child abduction, recognizing the emotional and psychological harm that child victims suffer when kidnapped by persons they love and trust.

One of Aaron’s Law’s most important clauses authorizes the court to order counseling sessions directed at educating the parents to the harm that their conduct is inflicting on their own children.

Most parents understand the difference between what is harmful and what is not and can be fairly objective about it, but every now and then something like the Sellwood case or the Worthington case or the Hillsboro case surfaces and we are reminded that this fundamental essence of our humanity cannot be completely taken for granted.

It is far more common for a parent to kidnap a child than to commit murder, but both actions have permanent consequences.

If your ex kidnaps your child, you can expect to be utterly on your own. No one will help you look for or recover your child.

Time will pass, you will hear (or it will be unsaid) “Geez, that was years ago. You ought to move on….”

Eventually, people will forget you ever had a child.


Coming next:

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 4: Parental kidnappings increasing, up 70%

Sean Cruz writes

Parental Abduction Law at

Oregon’s Aaron’s Law: Stop Parental Abductions at

Blogolitical Sean at

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 2: The police won't help you

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--There are strict laws on the books regarding child abduction, Oregon statutes that might serve as a deterrent to child-snatching were it not for their lax enforcement.

The non-enforcement of these laws has several causes, but the most important among them, and the most disastrous to a family severed by a kidnapping, lies in the attitudes of policing agencies, the legal profession and the courts towards the issue of parental and family abduction itself.

These attitudes shape what is possible in the real world, when your child vanishes with a family member or with the connivance of a family member.

Local law enforcement generally will not take your claim that your child was kidnapped seriously, and despite the fact that the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, fathers are far less likely than mothers to see a priority status attached to a police report. They are going to assume that you, the father, did something wrong….

This fact alone shapes the attitudes of others (if the police aren’t concerned, why should I be?) and cuts your options down severely.

When your child disappears, the first thing you do is call 911, which brings a response of some sort from local law enforcement.

There is no statewide policy regarding how these cases are handled. It is all up to local law enforcement and the district attorney.

If you call the Oregon State Police or the FBI, they will refer you back to local law enforcement. Makes no difference if the child has been taken out of state. They will want to see a report from local law enforcement (which isn’t likely to be issued).

Under Oregon statute, in order to trigger the custodial interference laws that govern non-stranger kidnapping, one must demonstrate that the person intends to take the child “permanently, or for a protracted period of time.”

It may be clear to you that this is an actual kidnapping, clear to you that your ex will never willingly allow you to see your child again, but try telling that to the police.

They are going to want to wait, to see if either “permanently” or “protracted” takes place, even though there is no general agreement, no legal definition, on what these terms mean in terms of time, in terms of your life or your child’s life, which is slipping away….

Both terms can mean “forever.”

Parental and family abductions are the only crimes on the books with a built-in open-ended waiting period.

If your ex stole your car, the police would be right on it, and they would haul in everyone who conspired to steal your car, and anyone who acted after the fact in a criminal capacity (more on this in a later post), and those people would be going to jail.

Despite the fact that my four children had been taken out of their schools and away from their home with me, in clear violation of a joint custody order, I was never interviewed by a detective.

In order to trigger an Amber Alert, you have to convince local law enforcement that a crime has taken place, and you need a physical description of the vehicle.

Shortly before she kidnapped my children, my former wife bought some kind of mini van, painted white. That’s all I knew, not enough information for an Amber Alert, and local law enforcement wasn’t going to look for my kids anyway.

At the time of the kidnapping, the Pacific Northwest was in the grip of a major storm, and many roads leading out of the Portland area were closed due to flooding, avalanches and downed power lines. I-84 eastbound and I-5 northbound were both cut by floods.

It seemed impossible that she could have driven anywhere, and it was unthinkable that she would have taken the kids out on the road in these hazardous conditions—but that’s exactly what she did.

Weeks passed by before I learned that my children’s abduction had been carefully planned and carried out by a group of Mormon church leaders living in three states, and I learned later still that they would stop at nothing to ensure that the abduction was permanent, and that their own roles in the crime would remain hidden (more on this in later posts).

If they had stolen any of my personal property, then the police would have gotten involved and my family would still be whole, my son alive today.

But all these criminals did was to cause my four children to disappear and conceal them in another state, and that leads to the issue of attitudes, for the laws are already on the books.


Coming next:

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 3: The most dangerous kidnappers: parents


Sean Cruz writes:

Aaron’s Law at
Parental Abduction Law at
Blogolitical Sean at

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 1: Searing, crushing heartbreak

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--If anyone was to ask me to describe what the loss of a child in a kidnapping is like, fourteen years gone by, this is how I would answer:

Searing, crushing heartbreak.

Same then, same now.

Heart full of pain, heart full of tears.

Same now, same then.

The photographic record of your child, the educational record, the record of your child’s life ends abruptly, in a single instant.

Everything that follows is a matter of age-progressed photographs and other guesswork and the certain knowledge that your heart will never recover from this.

It is the nature of kidnappings that the victims are taken by surprise. No one is ever prepared for this.

Shock. Disbelief. Searing, choking, crushing heartbreak. Anger. Panic. Desperation. Grief. Hopelessness. Depression. For some, suicide. You feel your pain, and you feel your child’s pain, and this pain never goes away.

With time, when you find yourself able to think about the future, you come to understand that every dream you ever had ended with the abduction, like an asteroid suddenly smashed the planet flat.

As a father, as a man, I am acutely aware that in child custody and family kidnapping cases, the legal system treats men differently from women.

This disparate treatment is certainly institutional, but it is grounded in the attitudes of society at large.

No reasonable person is going to expect a mother whose children disappeared to either start up a new family or to ever have a normal life again.

People have a very different expectation of fathers, however, and the legal system is made up of people. In this society, people expect fathers to move on, to start up another family somewhere, and another….

From the very beginning, people counseled me to be patient, assured me that someday my children would find me, had other ignorant things to say, but most often just shrugged, unable to relate to the situation….

In just a matter of months, some people were wondering why I didn’t just move on…I still hear that, way too often…”Geez, Sean. Fourteen years. You ought to move on….”

First point: Kidnappings are continuing crimes. Your child is kidnapped from the beginning to the end. There is no time off, no vacations, no relief whatsoever. A kidnapping is a permanent state of being. There is no moving on!

If your child is lost in the mountains, people can understand that as long as your child is lost in the mountains, your child is lost in the mountains. Some might even help you search….

That point has been lost on just about everyone I have met along the way.

This is a typical attitude toward cases of parental and family kidnapping, and it makes recovery that much more difficult. At minimum, the attitudes cost you time, cost your child’s time, and time is everything.

I envy people their normal lives.

I know that somewhere out there on the planet, three of my children are still alive.

For me, that is the most important fact in all the world.


Coming next:

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 2: The police won’t help you


Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean at, Aaron’s Law at and Parental abduction law at

Aaron and I, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

We were so proud of each other, Aaron and I....

As time went by, his mother changed her personality 180 degrees, became a TBM (True Believer Mormon)....

This was the cause of great tension in our household, as I wasn't buying it....

After we moved from California to the Portland area in 1988, not long after this photograph was taken, she started representing to her new Mormon friends (she wouldn't befriend anyone else) that she had been a TBM her entire life....

Telling that story of lifelong devotion to Mormonism became an obsession with her, and the obvious contradiction that I represented was a major cause of our divorce.

She sold that story to her current husband, husband number five, who apparently went for that TBM bullshit hook, line and sinker. The happy couple, Ben and Gina Foulk, their marriage founded on a bed of lies, live near Sacramento, California.

Gina and I negotiated a divorce in 1991. The Court ordered joint custody, joint decisionmaking and joint responsibility for our children's education and medical needs.

The order specified the days and times that our children would reside with each parent, and I saw my kids an average of 180 days a year for the next five years, with daily phone contact. I wasn't going to be an every-other-weekend kind of dad.

Sometime in 1995, however, Gina and her Mormon friends and family began to scheme to kidnap our children and conceal them in Utah, to permanently sever all contact with me and with my family, and to isolate my kids and immerse them in an environment of Mormon absolutism.

It’s easy to find TBM allies in Utah, theocratic Utah, when you have a good TBM story to sell.

After the kidnapping, Aaron never smiled like this again. His heart was too full of pain, too full of tears. Betrayal will do that to you.

Children abducted by parents, by people they love, lose their ability to trust.

More on this later.