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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oregon non-stranger kidnapping law explained

I can tell you from personal experience that one of the many barriers one encounters in getting law enforcement, the courts, the lawyers and the general public to understand the seriousness of these crimes lies in the term itself, “custodial interference.”

Custodial interference just doesn’t sound like a serious crime, and people in general mentally lump these offenses into a broad category of custody issues.

But child abduction by any person is a felony in this state. It is a crime with irreversible consequences, and the children and other victims suffer irreparable harm. These are known facts, beyond what common sense and simple human decency call for.

It is also important to distinguish kidnapping offenses from most other crimes in that they are continuing crimes; that is, the crime does not occur as a discrete event. Your children are just as kidnapped on the last day of the abduction as they were on the first, maybe even more so when you consider the damage to their lives.

Under the section titled “KIDNAPPING AND RELATED OFFENSES,’ Oregon statutes classify non-stranger abductions as “custodial interference in the first degree” or “custodial interference in the second degree.”

Here is the text of the statue, further explanation appearing below (emphasis added for clarity):

163.245 Custodial interference in the second degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the second degree if, knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person takes, entices or keeps another person from the other person’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order with intent to hold the other person permanently or for a protracted period.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the second degree is a Class C felony.

163.257 Custodial interference in the first degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the first degree if the person violates ORS 163.245 and:
(a) Causes the person taken, enticed or kept from the lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order to be removed from the state; or
(b) Exposes that person to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the first degree is a Class B felony.

In the case of the Cruz family abduction, my children were in fact enticed, taken and kept in violation of a valid joint custody order that had been in effect for five years. My children were also exposed “to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.”

The state of Oregon, through the work of the 2003 Senate President’s Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, is rapidly gaining awareness that the statutory language is inadequate to describe the actual harm that abductions, even if committed by a parent and even if for a short duration, do to all such children.

These crimes cannot be unwound without additional, continuing harm to the children, and therefore the best solution is to prevent non-stranger abductions from occurring in the first place. That is the intent of Aaron’s Law, to act as an effective deterrent.

For more information on the harm family abduction inflicts on children, please see No one can explain this better than members of Take Root, all adults who were abducted as children by family members.

My former wife entrusted the care of my children to members of her church congregation, and it was these people who violated that trust relationship and enticed, took and kept my children in violation of the valid joint custody order.

More specifically, they took my children out of their schools in Hillsboro, Oregon and caused them to disappear on February 12, 1996 when the entire Northwest was in the middle of the Great Storm of 1996. By any definition, that act alone exposed my children “to a substantial risk of illness or injury.”

And you can bet that they kept their own children safe at home while they sent mine out on the road, bouncing from place to place, out of school.

The participants in the abduction were all members of the same church, from congregations in Oregon, Washington and Utah.

In Hillsboro, the chief culprits were David Holliday, a Mormon bishop, and Evelyn Taylor, the female equivalent of a Mormon bishop. Both used their church offices to commit or facilitate these crimes. Neither were ever charged or disciplined or investigated.

Two members of my former wife’s family, Tony Micheletti (Salem) and Cindy Anderson (Rainer), both participated in the abduction. Both also committed crimes of perjury and making false sworn statements. Neither were ever charged or investigated.

In Washington, Donald Taylor, a Mormon bishop in Battle Ground, used his church office to facilitate the kidnapping, and two church associates, Barry and Connie Dunford, also of Battle Ground, participated. None were charged or investigated.

In Utah, the central figures were Kory and Chris Wright, both Mormon officials who made the arrangements to hide the children in rural areas of the state. Neither were charged or investigated.

Steve Nielson, stepdad #2, also of Utah, played an unknown role in the early stages of the abduction, but clearly and actively “kept” my children in violation of the valid joint custody order. He also committed multiple acts of assault against my former wife, two of my children and even one of their friends (these crimes, including aggravated assault, were described in affidavits entered into the subsequent divorce proceeding), but no one ever called the police. He also committed the crimes of perjury and making false sworn statements. He also was never charged or investigated.

The valid joint custody order that protected my children, that kept their lives orderly and secure vanished in an instant, a worthless piece of paper.

Aaron’s Law is designed to act as a deterrent to non-stranger child abduction in several ways:

Aaron’s Law puts the interest of the child victim(s) first and foremost, and among the first things that need to happen in an abduction is for the abduction to end now!

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assign a qualified mental health professional and a guardian ad litem to act in the interest of the child victim at the very outset of the case, before any other findings or procedures. This element is intended to protect the children from manipulation by any party.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to charge the cost of these professional child advocates to the parties as the court sees fit. If you create the problem, you can expect to pay for it, starting here.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to send the parties (separately) to counseling directed at educating the parties to the harm their conduct is causing the children, and assess the cost of said counseling as the court sees fit. The court is authorized to do so at the outset of the case, again, to protect the children from manipulation.

These clauses are also designed to discourage frivolous suits or cases filed to harass another party.

Aaron’s Law creates civil liability for all parties to an abduction. If you want to abduct a child you are related to or otherwise acquainted with, be prepared to forfeit your house and other property. In other words, it had better be worth the risk.

None of the people who participated in the Cruz family abduction would have done so if it would have cost them some money.

The statute of limitations on criminal custodial interference, believe it or not, is only three years. The statute does not take into account either the continuing nature of the offense or the fact that many abductions last longer—much longer—than three years.

Aaron’s Law addresses both of these weaknesses, although only in civil cases filed under Aaron’s Law. The criminal statute is unchanged.

Aaron’s Law creates a civil action that is effective for up to six years after the child victim reaches the age of 18. This clause recognizes that children who suffer abduction are harmed in ways similar to that of sexual abuse, and it may take some time after the child victim reaches the age of 18 to understand and personally deal with what has happened in the child’s life. Again, see for information on the extent of harm.

In other words, if you abduct a 4-year-old child, under Aaron’s Law, you own a civil liability until that child is 21 years old. It had better be worth it to you.

Aaron’s Law, finally, is designed to ensure that the courts, the bar, law enforcement and the general public are better informed and better able to handle these cases. That may be the most effective deterrent of all.


Reverend X said...

This is more a series of questions than a comment. I realize that you are busy with your own litigation, but due to time constraints of my own, I am forced to ask.

Does either the Oregon Criminal Statute or Aaron's Law cover Parental Abduction which occurs prior to a Divorce Judgment? I had assumed that one could not just move to another state and file for custody in that state as a resident without breaking some law, but as I have learned, that law is nonexistent. I wrote you once before, explaining my situation. As is I have until February 6th to come up with a legal cause to keep my Wife from getting State Approval to keep my children.

Aside from hearsay, the evidenced facts are: She took them to New Mexico on March 7th, 2006. She returned to New Mexico with everything else on March 28th, 2006. I went down there on April 3rd, 2006. I returned to Oregon on April 15th. My return was planned and paid for by her family. She filed for Separation and Custody on April 19th. All of her legal actions have been paid by her family.

Paragraph 1 of her petition alleges that the children, herself and myself are all domiciled in New Mexico. Domiciled has two definitions, only one of which would be used when filing for custody. She has claimed in court here that New Mexico has no residency requirement for custody. Regardless of that, she still swore an affidavit to her claim that I was domiciled there, less than a week after seeing me board a plane back to Oregon with a one way ticket.

My question is basically: Are there any provisions in Arron's Law which cover an initial parental kidnapping? Also, her parents are the primary funding and housing suppliers of this entire situation. Although they did nothing to assist me in getting to NM, they were quick to buy me a ticket back to OR. Now they claim that I abandoned my family.

Second question: Do you know of anyone that can help in a situation like this?

sean cruz said...

Reverend X--Please contact me directly at and leave a phone number. I will call you directly. Also, contact and talk to them about what you are dealing with. They have been there before, and they understand that these situations are highly abusive to the children.

Tonya said...

Boy do my husband and I feel what you are saying. We are active volunteers with team hope. My step children were abducted by their mother in August of 2005. She was caught in Utah in February of 2006. It took three months just to get law enforcement involved. She was charged with custodial interference in the state of Washington. We of course had a ensuing custody battle which is still ongoing. We had little money and her parents pay for everything so we had a cheap lawyer and she had a spendy one. We were ordered to a custody evaluation at Washington County Conciliation Services. What a mistake the evaluator minimized her abduction and still gave her custody even though she failed her u.a.s and said she would take the children again. She told him several lies about why she took the kids and used an eight year old d.v. that my husband had against her as a way of saying he had an anger problem. Even though my husband did a year of anger management and she admitted in an affidavit that she had been violent towards him. Because of that eval our lawyer wouldn't prepare for trial and even sided with his ex saying she was a victim. We were forced into a settlement and now only have visitation. We are fighting this every step of the way. We have filed a formal complaint against the evaluator as he broke the law right along with her during a part of the evaluation. We are starting to feel like nobody cares about what kind of damage this has caused for our children and for us. This man who did our eval was a licensed counselor and he couldn't see the damage that she has caused them. Oh she's also a repeat offender all though the first time my husband did not file charges and she told him to move to where she was after three months. Well sorry to take up your time with our story but it's nice to see that someone is helping to forward the laws in Oregon. If she hadn't taken her son from our home in Washington then Oregon would have been alot harder for us to work with. You should look at Washington's wording of Custodial Interference.They provide for even parents with visitation to make the charge if the other parent won't follow the orders. I wish Oregon's was worded like that. Washington's is 9A.40.060.
Thanks for your time!
With hope,
Tonya Sjomeling

pearlj said...

Ok so I came across your blog when I was doing research on my situation, and I thought that I would say a lil about my situation seeing as how unusual it is, and ask for some advice from anyone who is able to give it.
I was taken by my Father at the age of 6. My Mother and Father had joint custody in the state of Oregon, and apparently when my Mother went to file a report they denied her because both parents had joint custody, therefore it wasn't considered kidnapping. Keep in mind though that I am now 25 years old. So all of this was 20 years ago. I am trying to press charges against my Father and my step-mother (who was his accomplice) for kidnapping me.
In the end it was every parents worst nightmare, I was abused throughout my life by my Father. And I believe he kidnapped me for that reason. The deal is that we moved so much (most of the times in the middle of the night,and in complete secrecy) so he abused me in so many jurisdictions tha+t I would have to file in each and every one in order to press charges for the abuse. I for obvious reasons cannot feasibly do that. Therefore I have decided to attempt to press charges against him for kidnapping.
My goal is to get him locked up so that he wont be able to abuse anymore children, even if its only for a short time.
Anyway if you have ANY advice or ideas of people I should talk to please contact me. If you have any questions as you can see I am a pretty open person and am more than willing to answer them.
Does anyone know about the kidnapping laws twenty years ago? Or where I can research that info? Is there a statute of limitations on such things?

sean cruz said...


Please send me your contact info and let's talk. Send to

Tonya Sjomeling said...

Hello! Well it's been a long time since I left my original comment here and we are now faced again with losing our children to the monster who abducted them three years ago. In August Ms. Lasser who, was charged with custodial interference and domestic burglary three years ago, filed to move to Utah.(where she was arrested while she was absconding with the kids)Her reason was that she simply can't take care of herself and in the last three years after being awarded custody of the children she abducted she has been unable to hold a job. Furthermore, her father, who also pays all her bills after the 500 a month in child support is gone, is retiring as he has lymphoma cancer and will be dying soon. He has offered to train her and she can take his position in Utah making $35,000 a year. After a lenghty battle in Judge Kirsten Thompsons courtroom she decided that it would be in the best interest of the Children for this move to happen. She failed to state why and we proved every step of the way that Ms. Lasser is unstable and that the children's lives up until the last few years had been greatly disturbed by Ms. Lassers actions. That another move would just cause upheavel and grief for both them and my husband who is entitled to a right to have close contact with his children. Something Ms. Lasser has continually tried to deny him. We had the children every other weekend and will now have them six times a year for two weeks. We are obviously appealing the decision if we can come up with the money but it just seems to me that there is something seriously wrong with the family courts in Oregon. Washington County especially has a very biased system where the mother is always a saint and the father is viewed as an evil man who plots every day to destroy the life of this wonderfull mother. It sickens me to no end. Sorry for the rant but I thought I should update my earlier comment.

Tonya said...

I have a serious question. Well the judge is allowing our children to move to Utah with there mother. She was advised she could move within thirty days. My husband's lawyer stood up and asked for a specific date and times that we could have with the children before they move. The judge asked their mother if she was planning to move by the end of the month. It was April 6th when we had court and the mother said she was moving at the end of the month. The judge then told her that she was to give us the last two weekends of the month for our final visitations before they move and the long distance parenting plan goes into affect. We got our first weekend and then when it came time (one week later) to get our final weekend their mother didn't show up. When she was contacted she said she sent them to Utah allready. When we got home there was a letter from her attourney accusing us of embroiling the children in this matter and creating anxiety over the move so their mom decided to move them early and cancle our last vist. She also states that when the children are settled she will give us their address and phone number. She's allready been convicted of custodial interference once before. Can she keep doing this? Don't we have a legal right to our visitation and to know where our children are?