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Case of kids found on Facebook revives disputes
Question of the Day
As she hovered nervously, three teenagers with her daughter’s name popped up on the Facebook site. Sagala didn’t know which teenager to try first until she realized that one girl looked like her younger daughter, Joana. The girl also had a Facebook friend with the same name as Sagala’s missing son.
Sagala sent a message and received a heartbreaking reply. The 17-year-old wrote that she had a happy life, had been told bad things about her mother and had no interest in a relationship. Right before she took down her Facebook page, the teen signed off with a mysterious line of poetry: “A flower that was born in a forest can’t live in the desert.”
Since then, Sagala’s world has been turned upside down.
Levine said he has provided the district attorney in California with letters Sagala wrote to her husband in Mexico and has found witnesses from the small Oaxacan village where he was living for 12 years who claim Sagala called and spoke to Utrera several times on the community’s public telephone. Levine alleges Sagala also sent money to Utrera for her children and received videos of them that she showed in her church _ undermining her claims that she didn’t know where they were.
Sagala’s attorney, Keith Peterson, called those allegations “the desperate claims of a child abductor, the claims of a kidnapper. She was searching for her kids for 15 years.”
Rowley, the district attorney prosecuting Utrera in California, said his office was aware of some of the allegations, had investigated and was confident the criminal case against Utrera would hold up in court.
“In her interviews with us, we feel that she has been very candid,” Rowley said. “In child abduction cases, you’ll get two very different stories. But having taken all that into account, there isn’t any question in our mind that the acts that were done qualify as the crimes that were charged.”
Ann Berner, a regional administrator for the Florida Department of Children & Families, said the teens were in foster care in Florida. She said because of their age, their wishes would be given substantial weight by the judge when deciding any custody arrangements.
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