LETHBRIDGE – A 33-year old woman who was taken into custody in Belize last month – three years after allegedly abducting her then 11-month old son – made her first appearance in Lethbridge Provincial Court Thursday (Aug. 10).
The woman cannot be identified, due to a publication ban that was requested by the Crown to protect the identify of the child, who is now four years old.
She had been wanted by authorities since 2014 on a charge of child abduction, after she allegedly failed to drop off the child for a court ordered visit with his father. As a result, the father was granted sole custody on an interim basis, and numerous international agencies were involved in the search.
Since then, members of the Lethbridge Police Service tracked the mother and child to Mexico, Guatemala and various parts of Belize.
“At times, navigating foreign bureaucracy was a significant challenge to the investigation,” explained lead investigator, Sgt. Cam Van Roon during a media conference. “And of course, with differences in laws, rules, regulations and even law-enforcement priorities, there were delays, which at times resulted in the accused being able to move from one place to another before we were able to have authorities in Belize assist us with apprehending her.”
Van Roon says they finally got their break on July 19, when they received a tip that the two were in the town of San Ignacio, where they were taken into custody by local authorities.
The woman was jailed in Belize for failing to produce valid immigration documents and deported to the U.S., before being returned to Canada. LPS officers took her into custody at the Calgary International Airport on Wednesday (Aug. 9).
Sgt. Cam Van Roon
As for the child, he remains in the care of Belize Human Services. Global Affairs Canada is currently making arrangements to bring him back to his father in the near future.
“The tough side of it of course, is it's going to be quite taxing on this little fella to come back after having been gone for three-and-a-half years, leaving when he was 11-months old,” stated Van Roon. “So, that part is going to truly be a challenge for him, and just making his way back into Canadian culture and being re-acquainted with his father and stuff like that.”
The media conference coincided with the woman’s first court appearance, as she appeared briefly in-person.
Duty counsel handled the matter for her, simply asking that the case be adjourned to next Tuesday (Aug. 15), as she needed time to retain a lawyer.
Outside the courthouse, Tony Bell with Specialized Prosecutions, explained that they will be seeking a federal sentence for the woman, if convicted. He also noted that they are also opposed to her release from custody, as they believe she is a flight risk.
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