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Saturday, October 28, 2006



photo by Caren Knight-Pepper

A man works through loss for others' gain

This column by S. Renee Mitchell appeared in the Oregonian on October 24, 2005. (my comments are appended at the end)

It took almost 10 years, but Sean Cruz has finally learned to live with his unrelenting heartbreak.

He's sleeping more at night. The bouts of depression are as familiar as a friend, but thoughts of suicide don't visit as often.

"When your child is gone, every minute is impossible," Cruz says. "You're trying to get through the day. You can't sleep. Your food has no taste . . . Whatever was going on, I just couldn't deal with it."

On Feb. 12, 1996 -- in the middle of a winter storm -- Cruz's ex-wife took his four children, ages 8 to 17, and shuttled them through family homes in different states before ending up in Utah.

Cruz, who has joint custody, contacted police, who couldn't help. He hired lawyers he couldn't afford. And he regularly sent lengthy e-mails to people like me who saw his name and pushed the delete button.

"You assume that people are going to hear you when you say, 'My child was abducted,' " says Cruz, an aide to Sen. Avel Gordly. "But the word 'abduction' or 'kidnapping' seems to make people uncomfortable."

Cruz couldn't get regular access to his children until 2003, when his oldest son, Aaron, who was fighting a meth addiction, moved to Portland. (see correction, below)

After three months, though, the 21-year-old returned to Utah, hoping to be reunited with his younger brother, who is on his second tour in Iraq. But Aaron, who suffered from insomnia, depression and anxiety, was too sick.

In late April of this year, Aaron slipped into a coma and died. After the funeral, Cruz says, his daughters, now ages 26 and 17, stopped returning his phone calls. Cruz hasn't heard from his other son, age 21, for two months.

"It's like the kids got swallowed up again," says Cruz, whose laugh lines have been widened by years of worry and regret.

Without his children, Cruz's focus became fighting parental abductions. He persuaded Gordly to push legislation -- called "Aaron's Law" -- that gives families tools to punish parents for the crime of child abduction. The House, led by Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, unanimously approved the bill in the last week of the session.

"Aaron's Law" lets the courts appoint legal and mental health advocates for any minor children, even before a criminal or family law case goes to court. Aaron's Law also permits any adult or child to sue for financial damages against any person who interferes with a court's custody order.

The law -- which had at least 10 revisions before final passage -- recognizes that abducting a child is abusive. Children are traumatized when they suddenly lose access to everything that's familiar, says Liss Hart-Haviv, of Take Root, a Portland-based nonprofit that advocates for abducted children (

"The loss and the grief that the child experiences is really difficult to get your mind around," Hart-Haviv says. "It doesn't really matter who takes you or what their motivations are, it's still the experience of being abducted."

Aaron's Law also is leading to a statewide symposium where Oregon can create a systematic approach to preventing child abduction. It also includes training to encourage law enforcement officials to take the crime seriously. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 200,000 children each year are kidnapped by a parent or family member.

"This is a story of how the process can work," Gordly says. "Sean put his heart and soul, everything he had, into not just the bill but educating me and educating other legislators about the damage that happens to children who are abducted."

Although Aaron's Law will help other parents, Cruz's suffering will probably never end. He can never recapture all that he has forever lost. And his troubled mind can't seem to find complete peace -- even when he sleeps.

"I mourn Aaron's death," Cruz says. "But I also mourn the last 10 years of his life. I just can't imagine that."

Sean's comments: Aaron wasn’t fighting a meth addiction. He was in a methadone program, fighting an opiate addiction that originated with the heavy medication he was prescribed after he was taken to Utah. Before he was taken, Aaron was completely healthy. Afterwards, however, he suffered from major clinical depression, chronic insomnia and severe anxiety.

From the age of 15, the adults surounding him in Utah dosed him with Ritalin, Alderol, Prozac, Zoloft, Xanax, Oxycontin and other drugs ( I have not been able to gain access to his complete medical records yet). At the time of his death, Aaron had been medicated continuously for nearly the entire time since he was taken from Oregon. It is common for abducted children to lose access to medical care. In Aaron's case, the medical providers appear to be linked to the church leaders involved in his abduction.

He put himself in a methadone program, trying to regain control of his life, in 2003. He told me that his dream was to work at my side in the legislature. That was my dream as well.

He was undergoing medical tests here in Portland, where we were trying to gain an understanding of his physical and mental health problems, which included a serious thyroid problem and the seizure disorder which led to his death, when he received orders to report to Utah for deployment to Iraq.

Despite a life-threatening condition, Aaron left unhesitatingly for Utah to join his brother for deployment (Army National Guard). He came downstairs as soon as he received notice of the orders and said, "Dad, I'm going to join my unit. I've got to look after my brother."

A few days later, on Thanksgiving 2003, I watched him pack, and the next day he was gone.

When he left my home, his access to competent health care ended.

It is also incorrect to state that the children were taken by my ex-wife. It was a child-stealing ring motivated by extreme bigotry that enticed, tricked, took and kept the children. And it was in their interests that Aaron was kept quiet and under control through medication and indoctrination. The known members are named in earlier posts to this blog.

postscript: Aaron refused to accept the severity of his illness and never gave up trying to join his brother. He believed he could get well in Iraq if he was given a chance. Shortly before he was stricken, Aaron called me and said, "Dad, I'm going to Iraq. I'm joining the Marines. They're looking for people just like me."

And he was right, the Marines do look for people just like him: courageous, selfless, ready to serve and never--ever--willing to give up.

It runs in the family.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Open letter to an Interstate Child Stealing Ring, pt.1

To Evelyn Taylor, David Holiday, Tony Micheletti (Oregon), Chris and Kory Wright, Steve Nielson, (Utah), et al:

You kidnapped my children from their home with their grandmother and I near Hillsboro, Oregon and took them to a series of locations in at least three states.

You took them out of their schools and put them directly into danger, stripping them of friends, family and home in the process. It was a deliberate, evil act.

You used your positions of authority in your church to control them and burden them with conflicts you would never have visited on people you love. Let us be clear—you did not do this out of love.

The conflict left Aaron scarred physically and emotionally, and his blood is on your hands, each of you.

You forced four innocent children to reject their own family because you needed them to cover your guilty, criminal asses. And you still do, nearly eleven years later.

Your criminal conspiracy continues…you continue to bleed this family of time, money, opportunity, and in Aaron’s case of life itself….

Now you have hired lawyers whose sole job is to stand between my son’s medical and school records and me.

I cannot compete with your financial resources. That is no secret. You can hire lawyers for years and years, as you already have, and I can do little about it.

But I can write and publish the truth, and you will have to deal with that.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run on your crimes, so none of you are facing prison time. None of you are facing the criminal sanctions you so richly deserve. I hope you are driven out of your homes with pitchforks and shovels.

Your debt to the Cruz family—and to society—is as permanent as the damage you have inflicted. You deserve every piece of bad news coming your way.

The passage of Aaron’s Law (Senate Bill 1041) does bring an element of justice, although each of you are exempt from its reach due to the statute of limitations, but it does not bring closure. Closure will only occur when the Cruz family is reunited, and not one day before.

Tony Micheletti—you impotent slab of lard—you will be the subject of Open Letter, pt.2, coming soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blogolitical Sean endorses Governor Ted Kulongoski

As the father of two Army National Guard soldiers, one who has served two tours in combat in Iraq as a .50 caliber machine gunner, and one who died in April 2005, I urge you to vote for Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Of all the candidates for Governor, Ted Kulongoski is the only one who cares about our troops and their families, the only one who stands with the families when they bury their loved ones.

Ted Kulongoski is the only candidate who understands the sacrifice our troops and their families have made, are making, and will make in the future, and he feels this in his heart.

Ted Kulongoski recognizes that governors have no voice in shaping U.S. foreign policy, no role in conducting war, but that has not kept him from seeing every deployed Oregonian off and seeing every deployed Oregonian return. The other candidates excuse themselves away with their narrow agendas. Ron Saxton wants to save me ten bucks on my taxes.

It takes a giant heart and a very special sort of courage to face those grieving families, and Ted Kulongoski is the only governor in the nation who has these qualities.

For this, Governor Ted Kulongoski is a hero to me.

The number one issue for those of us who are making the sacrifices in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for those of us who are making these sacrifices again and again, is the war itself. Of all the issues the candidates want to talk about, the only issue for us is the war, the most important question is—when will our loved ones come home?

The typical Guardsman comes from a small town or rural area. The death notices often name a town that few city people have ever visited or even heard of. The names and places are quickly forgotten in the city, as quickly forgotten as the sacrifice itself.

But Governor Kulongoski has made our soldiers and their families a priority from the very beginning of the war. He understands the mission and the needs of our troops, and he will never forget the names of those small towns, the faces of the families, and the stories that flesh out the human beings we have lost in faraway places.

He does this for all of us, for every single one of us. For you, and for me.

The only candidate with his heart in the right place is Ted Kulongoski.

I urge you to vote to re-elect Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Sean Cruz