By Sean Cruz
Fourteen years after my four children vanished from Oregon, and five years after the death of my son, Aaron Cruz, and the passage of Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping Senate Bill 1041, Aaron’s Law, named in his honor, the abduction of 7-year-old Kyron Horman has stirred up some media interest in the issue of children abducted by family members and persons known to the victims.
Radio host Diane Dennis made the Aarons Law media breakthrough on the topic when she interviewed me yesterday, July 31, 2010 on her Family Focus 101 program on KUIK 1360 AM. The link to the interview is below.
Diane, you are the first to take an interest! Thank you!
Later on the same day, one of the Portland TV stations broke the news (!) that, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 2,000 US children are reported missing every day! That may be news to a lot of people, but not to those of us who have suffered the disappearance of a child, or to the child victims themselves, who grow in number every day.
The National Center and the US Department of Justice has put the figure of children abducted by their own parents, family members or persons known to the victims at more than 200,000 a year, every year, for more than a decade now.
Either way, it adds up to a lot of traumatized and seriously abused children, like my own, whose kidnapping was first reported after they vanished without a trace on February 12, 1996.
The fact is that, in sheer numbers, the most dangerous kidnappers are a child’s own parents, and this is news only if you haven’t been paying attention to the issue.
Parental and family abductions can be divided into two categories: those involving a single perpetrator, and those that involve two or more perpetrators, acting together to carry out a criminal act and any subsequent criminal acts.
Aarons Law makes Oregon the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action. This means, in layman’s terms, that only in Oregon can you hold a person financially accountable for abducting your child.
Practically speaking, if the whereabouts of your child and the child’s kidnapper(s) is unknown, there’s little that you can do but pray that local law enforcement doesn’t give up (they usually don’t even get started).
If you become aware, however, that the kidnapper(s) had help, had associates, had others providing logistical, financial or planning support, and you can identify them and locate them, then Aaron’s Law is your answer.
The criminal custodial interference and kidnapping statutes require evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” and unanimous agreement by a jury for a conviction. That is far too often a bar too high for the prosecution to get over, and thus many investigations end right there, even though the children remain kidnapped.
Aaron’s Law, however, creates a civil cause of action, and a judgement can be reached in court with a lower standard, by showing “by a preponderance of the evidence” that a person did in fact participate in the criminal taking, enticing and keeping of a child from the child’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid order for joint custody.
I know that if Aaron’s Law had been on the books in 1995, the people who planned and executed the abduction of my children, who committed those crimes and the crimes that followed, would have never gotten involved in the first place.
They would have known that I would never give up on my children, and that I would have sued them for everything they could ever hope to own, for the damage and trauma they inflicted on my children, on my family and on me.
That fact would have kept my children safe in their homes, among their family and friends, growing up and living normal lives, instead of lives lived in concealment in a succession of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah, lives that led to the death of my son Aaron.
Here are some easy examples:
After my children disappeared, mail addressed to them at their mother’s last address was not forwarded to Utah, where they were being concealed. The kidnappers had thought about how forwarded mail might lead to discovery, and my children’s mail was actually being forwarded to an address in Hillsboro, Oregon, to a person named Evelyn Taylor, Mormon Relief Society President at the time of the abduction.
I later learned that it is not illegal to receive mail intended for abducted children, but Evelyn Taylor was filthy beyond her eyebrows in enticing my children out of their homes and on the road to Utah. She would have faced a lawsuit filed under Aaron’s Law had the statute been on the books, and a lot of subsequent embarrassment, probably loss of standing in her church. That eventuality would have had a strong deterrent effect.
I learned that my children’s first stop on their circuitous, hidden journey to Utah was at the home of Tony and Connie Micheletti near Salem, my former wife’s impotent brother and sister-in-law. It was here, on February 12, 1996, that my children first learned that they were being moved to Utah.
Tony and Connie Micheletti would have been looking at a lawsuit under Aaron’s Law, had the right to file a civil suit for the abduction of a child been on the books back then, and with that the leverage to force information as to the whereabouts of my children out of them. I would have seized their rancid, reeking, cat-filth-infused house and burned it to the ground.
The next example of how Aaron’s Law would have deterred the abduction of my children is that of Kory and Chris Wright, Mormon zealots and friends of my ex-wife’s and the principal planners of the kidnapping. The Wrights live in Vancouver now, but at the time of the abduction they lived in a remote area in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah.
The first place that my children were concealed in Utah was at the home of Chris and Kory Wright. These stupid, self-absorbed individuals actually wrote out sworn statements describing how they welcomed my children into their home and local Mormon church congregation, where they held leadership positions.
It is a felony to take, entice or keep a child from the child’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order. Utah and Washington statutes add the word “conceal” to the statute.
Nothing could have been simpler than to assemble “a preponderance of evidence” to show that each of these people were involved in a criminal enterprise.
For that matter, had law enforcement taken an interest in the case, it would not have been difficult to show that each of these persons were guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
You can hear what I had to say in the interview, here:
Aaron’s Law exists to act as a deterrent to non-stranger child abductions. It is not likely to be effective against stranger abductions, which take place about 100 times a year in the US.
More than 200,000 children are victims of non-stranger abductions every year, however, and Aaron’s Law can be an effective deterrent to many of those.
I hope to see the principles of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide, and that we might see that 200,000 number knocked down to zero.
Thanks again to Diane Dennis.