A Longmont, Colorado mother who was assaulted this past Saturday by her separated husband after he broke into her home, where he is alleged to have pepper-sprayed her before using a stun gun on her before he kidnapped their three-year old child to Canada despite an Amber Alert being issued for the abducted child is hopeful that she will be reunited with her son over the coming days. The child’s father was arrested in Manitoba, Canada on Sunday, and thankfully, the child has been reported to be doing okay.
The abduction of Luke Turner and his abducting father, Monty Ray Turner’s ability to remove the child out of the United States and enter Canada despite an Amber Alert presents a dire concern international parental child abduction prevention advocates have been voicing for some time: the ease of which children are able to be illegally removed from both the United States’ as well as Canada’s borders due to existing border control policies and abduction prevention laws.
As the school summer vacation months approach, it is anticipated that the majority of criminal international parental child abductions will take place. How to prevent these kidnappings is at the core of concern for tens of thousands of abduction prevention stakeholders, including targeted parents of abduction, law enforcement, courts of local jurisdiction, and respective government agencies around the world charged with protecting children.
According to the Longmont Daily Times-Call, the defenseless child’s mother, Brandy Turner told police she stepped outside her home to smoke a cigarette and saw her husband in the backyard as Luke was having breakfast, Mrs. Turner, who had a restraining order issued against her husband, said she went inside, closed and locked the door, and tried to call 911, but Monty Turner forced his way inside and threw the phone to the floor. During a scuffle, Mr. Turner used pepper spray, shooting it into her face before she felt an electric shock, which she believes to be from a stun gun, she told the newspaper.
After snatching the child, Mr. Turner drove 1,500 kilometers east, leaving Colorado and entering Canada at some point while driving across the northern plains shared between the United States and Canada.
The brutality of the assault and abduction is indicative of sociopathic behavior exhibited by many parental child abductors.
Brandy Turner told The Associated Press on Monday that she had spoken with Luke on the phone and he knows he’s coming home. She said she couldn’t travel to Canada to get him because she has no passport. The child is presently under the supervision of Canada’s Child and Family Services.
Failure Of The Amber Alert
The Canadian Border Services Agency is presently investigating how the child was able to enter Canada despite an Amber Alert issuance.
Immediate concerns on how Mr. Turner was able to leave the United States and enter Canada include that somehow someone at the Canadian border dropped the ball, and did not carefully check for any Amber Alerts on the child and father. In addition, there is a possibility that Mr. Turner bypassed a border crossing all together and entered Canada by taking back roads that connect the two countries.
Immediate questions as to why Mr. Turner fled to Canada are troubling.
In the world of international parental child abduction, an abductor may initially enter into an adjacent country that shares a border with the child’s country of habitual residency due to ease of departure, only to use the first landing country as a launching point to disappear with the child to another country and into a sea of seven billion faces. It is presently unknown if Mr. Turner was intending to leave Canada for another country. Nevertheless, one thing appears clear: the abductor seemingly knew where he was going, which means he may have previously canvassed an exit route out of the United States traveling along the remote northern plains that have limited border security.
In a previously well-publicized international parental child abduction case that remains active, Mr. Stephen Watkins of Canada had his two young sons illegally removed from Canada to the United States by his former wife Edyta ( Ustaszewski / Ustaszewska ) with the assistance of the abductor’s father, Tadeusz Ustaszewski. Once in the United States, Edyta Watkins disappeared, and was able to enter Poland. Despite Poland being a signatory of the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and arrest warrants for kidnapping issued against her, Edyta Watkins has remained at-large, and Mr. Watkins children have not been returned home. Mr. Watkins children traveled into the United States without valid passports.
Targeted parents around the world who have their children abducted often do not reunite with their children. Rarely, are abducting parents prosecuted, as courts often fail to hold accountable an abductor for their act of kidnapping, often wrongfully citing ‘best interest of the child’.
However, recently, parental child abductors are starting to be held accountable, which may be one of the reasons why the reported cases of outbound international parental child abduction originating from the United States has declined by 15% over the each of the last two fiscal years (2011 and 2012) after nearly 30 years of continued growth. It should be noted with great exception that Canada has failed to publicly report the number of Canadian children abducted from Canada since 2008.
Monty Ray Turner was arrested Sunday afternoon without incident at the Casablanca Motor Inn in Brandon after law enforcement authorities were able to quickly locate him after he used a credit card to check into the hotel. If he did not use the credit card, it would have been more difficult to locate him and the child.
The boy’s grandfather, Ronald Turner, 72, was pulled over in Missouri on Sunday on a warrant for second-degree kidnapping. He was driving a vehicle with a licence plate number listed on an Amber Alert that had been issued after Luke was taken.
A Looming Cloud
As prosecutors in the state of Colorado are working to take custody of Monty Ray Turner, 51, who was being held on numerous charges, including kidnapping, a looming cloud covers Canada, the United States, Mexico, and island-nations located in the Caribbean due to existing international travel document requirements for minors under 16 years old need to cross a border that were established under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Specifically, a child traveling by land or by sea across adjacent borders who is under 16 years of age does not need to present a passport at the time of deparute. Instead, all that is required is a photocopy of the child’s naturalization papers, such as a photo copy of a birth certificate.
The presentation of fraudulent documents at border points has long existed and is well illustrated in the publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule” that was released March 27, 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security. It was reported that CBP officers had intercepted over 129,000 fraudulent documents since January 2005 from individuals trying to cross the border over an approximate 3 ½ year period. This is a substantial number; however, we must ask ourselves how many fraudulent documents were never uncovered and successfully used, and how has this impacted international parental child abduction and human trafficking.
It should be of great concern that the ability to falsify travel documentation for children is appears to be relatively easy. The capability to easily present travel documentation without another parent’s consent or to falsify travel documents for children in cases where a passport is not required appears relatively easy. The fact that simply a birth certificate or worse, a “copy” of a birth certificate and a letter of permission with no documentation to verify its validity, is sufficient to cross international borders is a serious security concern. And although it is is required that a parent or guardian traveling with the child without the other parent possess a letter of consent from the absent parent(s) we must strongly consider that there is no way to verify the validity of a parental consent letter.
Under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the WHTI was designed to strengthen border security and is a joint Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) plan that is carried out in part by the U.S. Customs Border Protection Agency (CBP). The intent of the initiative is to further protect and strengthen our nation’s borders by requiring all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a WHTI compliant document that establishes identity and citizenship.
So where do we go from here?
Clearly, the summer seaon is upon us, and with the school summer break now here, this is a time of year when thousands of children living in North America will become crime victims of abduction.
As the Turner case unfolds, we must not only ask ourselves how did Mr. Turner exit the United States despite an Amber Watch, but how did he do this. Furthermore, as the Watkins case resoundly demonstrated, not only should there be a mandatory requirement for all individuals regardless of age and type of travel (land, sea, or air) to present a valid passport at the time of departure. Note how I said ‘Valid Passport’?
Clearly, children like Luke Turner and every other child deserve to be safe from kidnapping.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
And International Parental Child Abduction
How Are Children Internationally Abducted By Their Parent
Which leads us to the question, “How Are Children Illegally Abducted Into And Out Of The United States or Canada?”
Security flaws that can lead to our children becoming victimized include, but are not limited to the following:
- Failures by courts and judges to properly assess abduction risk and attach court orders that would preempt international child stealing; and,
- Failure to create or uphold present child abduction prevention laws or other laws created to protect our children’s safety; and,
- Identity and travel documentation fraud; and,
- A lack of uniform requirements for travel documentation when departing or entering the U.S.; and,
- The ability under present law to easily illegally transport children under age 16 across borders during land and sea travel; and,
- Human error during verification of travel documents by CBP at a point-of-entry or departure; and,
- Failures by law enforcement to act expeditiously to a potential abduction threat; and,
- Inefficient communication and data sharing between government agencies responsible to assist in preventing or resolving an international child abduction case; and,
- The deficiency by our federal government to create and interlink a children’s travel alert, travel restriction data base consisting of real-time family court decisions at the state level with all U.S. border control agencies and transport companies similar to capabilities available through the Prevent Departure Program; and,
- A lack of or outdated or underutilized state or federal laws and programs that fail to prevent the abduction of a child and in fact may enable an abduction to occur.
For more information about international parental child abduction in Canada, please visit I CHAPEAU.