UPDATE: Since writing my initial post this morning about the arrest of Wendy Hill (left) on charges of kidnapping her 8-year-old daughter–and keeping the girl from her Walnut Creek father for 14 years–I thought more about what this story also says about how divorce and custody cases can get really nasty, and truly terrible things can happen. Angry exes use the kids as weapons, and then maneuver to deny each other access. The victims in all this are the kids; in fact, these custody battles often put the kids in serious danger.
Unfortuantely, some of the most notable recent cases in Contra Costa County involved mothers trying to keep their children from their fathers. So, I’m sure what I’m writing here will probably concern advocates for female victims of domestic violence. They will say these four cases don’t reflect all the violent and controlling behavior perpetrated by men in custody battles. I’m sure that’s true.
Still, women are capable of causing lots of damage themselves. Remember Kelli Nunuz?
In 2005, Nunez left prison after serving three years for abducting her own children, Anna and Emily, and keeping them from her estranged husband Danny. Kelli Nunez had been involved in a custody battle with her estranged husband Danny since 1999. During that fight she accused her ex-husband of abusing the girls. In 2002, she snatched the girls from a Lafayette daycare center, drove them to New York, flew back to San Francisco, and gave them to strangers, members of a San Jose group who was headed, it was reported by a convicted child molester. For six months, Nunez refused to tell authorities where her daughters were.
Two cases that I have personally written about involved children who wound up dead at the hands of their mothers.
The first was the case of intelligent, outwardly devoted San Ramon mother, 38, who in 2003 killed her 3-year-old daughter and then herself. As I learned through talking to her friends and family and reading her writings, Maegan Mundi was upset about having to share custody with her ex-husband, and became alarmed when she learned her ex-husband might block her effort to move out of state and take her daughter, Galadriel, with her.
Last summer, Judith Williams of Walnut Creek drove her 16-year-old son Adam, a Los Lomas High junior, to near the top of Mt. Diablo at dusk on a July Friday. There, at a picnic area with its view of clear skies, the professional, seemingly happy mother, armed with a .357-caliber revolver, opened fire on her own son. She shot him first on the chest. After he fell to his knees, she put the gun to his head and fired again. Then she turned the gun on herself. Judith Williams’ ex-husband described her as “angry” and suggested she was upset that he had moved back to Northern California and might want to spend more time with Adam.
Meanwhile, in the post I originally wrote this morning, I pointed to today’s Contra Costa Times which has more details in a follow-up story on the case of Jessica Click-Hill, who was found by authorities this week.
One point the story makes
is that “parental and family abductions account for nearly 97 percent of child abduction reports in the state. In Contra Costa County, all 29 abductions reported in 2008 involved family, and just one of the 64 reported in Alameda County that year was committed by a nonrelative.”
What is unusual in this case is the amount of time that passed –15 years–between the time of Click-Hill’s disappearance and her recovery. The Times says: “According to Justice Department data culled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only 6 percent of children abducted by their parents are found more than six months past their reported disappearances.” A Walnut Creek attorney who has specialized in family law for 36 years tells the Times that these cases usually last two or three months.
The mother, Wendy Hill, was found in Monrovia, east of Pasadena Tuesday
, following a tip to a missing child center. That tip was forwarded to Walnut Creek police who, with the FBI, learned that Hill was living in Southern California under the alias Gail Jackson.
Police arrested Hill, and brought her to Contra Costa County where she was booked in County Jail in Martinez on $350,000 bail. Authorities found Jessica living in another state apart from her mother. In all those years, she had never had contact with her father, Dean Click, with whom she had been living with in 1995 when she was kidnapped.
Click told the Times that he divorced Wendy Hill in the early 1990s, and that he was granted primary custody of his daughter. His ex-wife and daughter disappeared when Jessica went for a visitation with her mother her Redlands. Click talks about the “void” in his life,” all the years with his daughters and milestones he missed out on: birthday parties, school events.