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Five Famous Kidnappings

When The Kidnapper Is Also The Parent


Disagreements between parents who are no longer together can quickly explode, exposing children to emotional damage in the process. These fights are often fueled by both parents’ belief that they are correct in how they want to raise their child, making them extremely difficult to resolve amicably.

In extreme cases, these disagreements can result in one parent taking the law into his or her own hands and kidnapping the child.

In a world where parents spend countless hours teaching their children to be wary of strangers, it is heartbreaking that they can be kidnapped by someone they love and trust. But it happens every year and is often centered on disagreements over child custody.

5 Notable Parental Kidnapping Cases


Throughout history, there have been extreme cases of parental kidnapping, some of which have received a tremendous amount of media coverage. These tragedies include:

  • The 1977 kidnapping of Brandi Summers and Tiffani Wise – Brandi and her half-sister Tiffani were abducted from their San Bernardino home by Brandi’s father, Roy Summers. Their whereabouts remain unknown to this day.
  • The 1984 disappearance of Deborah Sanders – Deborah was abducted by her noncustodial father from her mother’s home in Chicago. Her father allowed her to speak to her mother on the phone a few days after the kidnapping, and that was the last time anyone has heard from her.
  • The kidnapping of Gabriel Johnson in 2009 – “Baby Gabriel” was abducted by his mother, Elizabeth Johnson, in 2009. Ms. Johnson was sentenced to prison in 2012 for unlawful imprisonment, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference. She had admitted to killing the boy, but later changed her story. Some people who had contact with Ms. Johnson after the abduction believe Gabriel was adopted and is now in a better place, but nobody knows for sure. He is still officially missing and feared dead.
  • The abduction and possible murder of the Skelton boys in 2010 – The Skelton boys went missing over Thanksgiving weekend at the hands of their father, John Skelton. He told investigators that “the children will hibernate until they graduate,” but they are feared dead due to the discovery of Google searches before the kidnapping such as “how to break a neck.”
  • The 2011 abduction of Timmothy Pitzen– Timmothy was checked out of school by his mother due to a “family emergency.” Three days later, his mother’s body was found in a hotel room in Rockford, Illinois, where she had committed suicide. She left a note that said “You’ll never find him.” He has yet to be found, five years later.


What Can A Parent Do?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a checklist of what to do if your child is missing.

In Michigan, parental kidnapping is punishable as a felony and is defined as withholding a child from a parent more than 24 hours after the child was supposed to be returned.

At Schwartz Law Firm, P.C., we have the tools and skills to resolve all issues involved in these critical cases. Get in touch with us anytime if you have concerns about domestic or international child custody issues.