A Colorado woman says she is relieved after being reunited with her three-year-old son, who was allegedly abducted and taken across the U.S.-Canada border to Manitoba by his father.
Luke Turner sat on the lap of his mother, Brandy Turner, during a news conference Tuesday night after they landed at Denver International Airport.
The mother and son were reunited earlier in the day, according to police in Longmont, Colo. The reunion took place in Minot, North Dakota because Brandy did not have a passport to travel into Canada.
She told reporters that Luke seems to be taking it all in stride.
"I think he was like 'Mommy have I gone home?' He slept on the plane so he's a little bit energized but I am exhausted," she said at the news conference.
Brandy said she felt terror and disbelief after her son was taken, then anxiousness trying to figure out how to get her son home. Having Luke with her now, she said she felt relief.
Her estranged husband, 51-year-old Monty Turner, remains in custody in Winnipeg for allegedly abducting Luke.
Monty Turner was arrested after he was found with Luke at the Casa Blanca Motor Inn in Brandon, Man., on Sunday.
The boy had been taken from Brandy Turner's home in Longmont, roughly 1,500 kilometres from the western Manitoba city, the day before.
At a detention review hearing Tuesday, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada ruled that Monty Turner should stay in custody for the time being. Another hearing will be held on June 4.
Turner is being held on numerous charges, including:
- Second-degree kidnapping.
- Second-degree burglary.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has argued that it does not want him released from custody until a permit can be obtained for his deportation.
On Tuesday, Monty Turner pleaded with the review board to let him wait for his next hearing in public, arguing that he would not present a flight risk because he doesn't have much money and his car has been seized by police.
"I don't know what more to say. I mean, I can't go anywhere. But it is in your hands, so I just ask for your mercy," he said during the hearing.
But board adjudicator Laura Ko said there is a good chance he would not show up for future hearings if he is released. She cited his failure to comply with court orders in the past.
"You have not complied with instructions of the police or the court system in the United States … and that leads me to have a concern that you would not be likely to comply with conditions of your release to appear for future immigration proceedings," Ko said.
Longmont police said they expect that Turner would be back in Colorado to face charges in anywhere from five days to three weeks.
A spokesperson for the Boulder County district attorney said he could contest extradition, which would delay his facing charges in Colorado.
Pepper spray, stun gun allegedly used
According to police, Turner allegedly attacked Brandy with pepper spray and a stun gun at her home on Saturday before fleeing with Luke.
A court order prohibits Turner from contacting his estranged wife and son.
Brandy told police Turner forced his way inside her home and threw the phone to the floor.
During a scuffle, pepper spray was shot into her face and she felt an electric shock she believed to be from a stun gun, she told the Longmont Daily Times-Call newspaper on Monday.
Police said Turner then fled the home with Luke and drove 1,500 kilometres north, crossing the border into Manitoba.
An Amber Alert was issued and Turner was arrested at the motel at about 1:30 p.m. Luke was found unharmed.
According to police, this was the second time Turner has taken Luke. The first incident happened last year and he had the boy for eight months.
But at that time, the couple's divorce — and custody of Luke — wasn't finalized, so the case wasn't considered a criminal matter.
Boy had passport
Luke was temporarily staying with a foster family in Brandon before he was reunited with his mother.
The CBSA is reviewing how Turner was able to get into the country with his son after an Amber Alert was issued.
At Tuesday's review hearing, the board heard that Turner has not been co-operating with border officials.
But the head of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Christy Dzikowicz, isn't surprised they were able to cross. The alert was issued in Colorado, so border officials might not have known about it.
"The Amber Alert was issued in a state that wasn't a border state. I think the story may have been very different if it had been a border state where they would have been inclined to alert the border immediately," she said.
That is exactly what happened, said Longmont Det. Cmdr. Jeff Satur. Police had no indication Turner might be heading to Canada, nor did they realize Luke had a passport.
"The Amber Alert, when we issued it, initially concentrated on the surrounding states of Colorado, which would have been Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona," Satur said.
"And then we also entered an Amber Alert in Missouri because our initial information was that he was heading toward Missouri.
"We did not have any information that he was heading to Canada. That is something else that we are looking into because the boy's mother was not aware and did not authorize any passports," Satur added.
Border vigilance questioned
Even without a passport, abducted children have been known to be taken across the Canada-U.S. border.
According to the CBSA, to legally take a child under 18 across the international border, the parent needs a signed letter from the other parent.
But Dzikowicz said parents sometimes aren't asked to present notarized letters if the border guards don't see anything suspicious.
Peter Thomas Senese, founding director of the international group I-CARE, agreed it's too easy for parents wanting to abduct their kids to cross the border.
Parents often only need a photocopied letter to verify the children can travel with them, said Senese, whose own son was abducted.
"There is no verification or no diligence at the border to see if the documentation that is presented is fraudulent or not," he said.