Federal prosecutors have charged a Lawrence woman who left the United States with her two daughters to allegedly avoid losing custody of them.
Samantha Elmer, 33, was arrested Tuesday after returning to the U.S. from Europe with the girls, according to federal prosecutors.
She is charged with one count of international parental kidnapping and appeared in court on the charge Wednesday.
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., Elmer drove to Chicago with her 9- and 11-year-old daughters and boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 26.
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The girls’ father, who was seeking full custody of his daughters, contacted authorities a few days later after learning the girls had not been to school since Oct. 21, according to the documents.
A hearing on his custody request had been scheduled for Nov. 2, and Elmer was also due Oct. 30 in Johnson County District Court, where she was facing charges of identity theft and misuse of a credit card. A warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to show up.
Investigators discovered that Elmer had obtained passports for herself and her daughters Oct. 23, and she purchased tickets for the flight to Turkey at a Lawrence travel agency Oct. 26.
They also learned that Elmer’s current husband had wired money to her in Europe on several occasions. Her husband told authorities that she left because she was afraid of losing custody of her daughters.
He also told them he didn’t believe she intended to return to the United States.
A friend of the husband who helped him wire money to Elmer told investigators that the money was sent to a town in Italy.
The girls have now been reunited with their father, who lives in Smithville. Elmer is being held in federal custody.