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Deonna comes home: Girl abducted by non-custodial father in 2007 returned to Onondaga County

Deonna Shipman was abducted by her non-custodial father, Jeffery Shipman, in 2007, who then fled the country with her. Jeffery Shipman turned himself into authorities in Thailand last month. The little girl, now 8, was returned to Onondaga County.

Deonna Shipman was abducted by her non-custodial father, Jeffery Shipman, in 2007, who then fled the country with her. Jeffery Shipman turned himself into authorities in Thailand last month. The little girl, now 8, was returned to Onondaga County.

— Conflicting stories

What would possess a Department of Transportation office worker with no criminal history to take his 3-year-old daughter and leave the country, violating not only a family court order but international law?

In an interview at the time of her daughter’s disappearance, Luba Shipman told Eagle Newspapers that her ex-husband was unstable and possibly suicidal. "He has a long history of chronic advanced depression and bipolar disorder,” she said. “If he doesn't take his medications for a long time, he makes irrational decisions.”

Since the Shipmans divorced, Deonna had regular visitation with her father. The visitation was uneventful, Luba said, until June 3.

“She revealed some things about what was going on at her father's,” she said. “I called Child Protective Services and they started an investigation.”

CPS investigated the matter and decided the accusation was unfounded; by law, the agency does not discuss unfounded accusations. But Luba thinks the reason it was unfounded was because her daughter would not repeat the allegations to the CPS worker.

“The system is overworked,” she said. “They don't know how to really get through and make it clear to a 4-year-old. There are so many holes.”

The next step, Luba said, was to have Deonna evaluated by a psychiatric professional. First, however, Luba filed a petition with Onondaga County Family Court to modify the existing custody order and provide for supervised visits between Deonna and her father. Jeffrey Shipman filed a counter-petition asking for sole custody of the girl. At the family's last court appearance, Jeffrey told Luba, “If I can't have her, no one will.”

“I took it lightly,” she said. “I thought he was just angry.”

At that appearance, the judge refused to grant either request. Visitation was to go on as scheduled. Luba said she risked losing custody of her daughter if she failed to comply with the existing order, so she sent her daughter off on July 11.

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