Luba Shipman is living every parent’s worst nightmare.
The Liverpool resident hasn’t seen her 4-year-old daughter Deonna since July 11. On that day, the girl’s father, Jeffrey, took her for his court-ordered visitation. He was supposed to return her to her mother by 5 p.m. the next day.
Instead, he vanished.
Jeffrey Shipman’s car was found in the parking lot of the Rochester airport on Wednesday July 19. Investigators have confirmed that he has taken Deonna and left the country.
“They’ve tracked him to London,” Luba Shipman said. “According to their passport activity [Jeffrey Shipman had insisted on taking his daughter’s passport, as Luba is originally from the Ukraine and he told the judge he feared she would leave the country with Deonna], their last exit was Heathrow Airport.”
Shipman said the FBI told her Jeffrey Shipman had bought two sets of tickets — one round-trip to Frankfurt, Germany and one to London. The tickets to Frankfurt were not used; investigators suspect Jeffrey Shipman bought them to throw them off his trail.
“But they have confirmed that he is definitely in England,” Luba Shipman said.
Now, Shipman needs the community’s help to hire a private investigator to bring her daughter home. Her co-workers are holding a benefit for her from noon until close this Saturday Oct. 6 at the Eastwood American Legion Post at 102 Nichols Ave., Syracuse, at the corner of James Street and Nichols Avenue. The event will feature live music, food, a silent auction and raffles. The cost for admission is $15 per person; children are free. Anyone who would like to contribute but cannot attend the fundraiser can make donations at any M&T Bank branch, where an account has been set up in Deonna’s name.
The money raised will help Shipman to hire a private investigator in England who will work with the FBI to find Jeffrey and Deonna.
“She was recommended to me by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Shipman said. “I’ve already spoken to her and she’ll take the case; I just need the funds to hire her.”
Shipman said the investigator will work closely with the FBI on the case, but, as they can’t travel to England to search on the ground, it’s necessary to hire a private investigator.
“The FBI people don’t have the capacity to work as closely with the English police,” she said. “The private detective is the best way to speed up the process.”
Shipman said the investigator comes highly recommended by the NCMEC.
“They said that this agency has expertise in finding missing kids,” she said. “Of 2,000, 1,900 were recovered.”
Shipman said that as soon as she has the money from the benefit this weekend, the investigator will start her search.
“As soon as I get her the money, she’ll start making it public — putting up posters and putting it on TV and stuff,” she said. “Then we just hope for information.”
Hope is something Shipman is still holding onto, despite the fact that her daughter has been in the hands of a man with a confirmed history of mental illness for nearly three months. Hiring the investigator is a proactive step that has made her more optimistic that her daughter will come home.
“Right now, I’m surviving day by day,” she said. “I just hope that lots of people will come this weekend and help bring De
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.