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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.

— Luba said she had made an appointment with a child psychiatrist for Deonna. She said she thought the prospect of the truth coming out drove her ex-husband to take the child and run.

But Jeffery Shipman’s family denies Luba’s allegations. They insist that he took his daughter out of the country because he feared Luba was planning to take Deonna back to her native Ukraine or Russia.

“He reiterated the fact and I do recall myself, her threatening to take her to Russia before he actually did take off,” said Shipman’s sister Cynthia Bennett.

Shipman’s brother Michael said anything Jeffery did was done in Deonna’s best interest.

“I think he felt he had to do what he had to do to protect her,” he said. “I hope the people who are in charge, the authorities, look at every aspect of this case so that there is a fair outcome.”

Family abduction: A common problem

Deonna Shipman is hardly the first child to be caught in this situation.

According to David O'Brien, chief counsel for Missing Children's Services at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Alexandria, VA, some 797,500 children are reported missing each year, some 2,185 every day. Of those, 203,900 are family abductions, meaning the child is taken by a family member. In order to address those cases, the NCMEC has units that deal specifically with family abduction cases, both domestic and international. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 1,000 children are taken abroad by non-custodial parents every year.

Though he couldn't speak specifically to the Shipman case, O'Brien said the center had dealt with numerous similar cases over the years and he could speak in generalities.

“With international cases, there are additional legal complications,” O'Brien said. “You have an additional layer of government and bureaucracy to cut through. Fortunately, thanks to the Hague Convention, we have agreements with other nations so that, if found, the children will be returned to the U.S. and to their custodial parent.”

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