- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. (AP) — A woman accused of abducting her two young children from their father then dressing like a man so she could assume his identity agreed yesterday to return to Arizona, where she faces kidnapping charges, authorities said.

Shellie White, 30, was taken into custody Friday in Roanoke Rapids, where police said she and a woman lived together as the children’s father and mother.

“I haven’t lived the life of someone on the run,” Mrs. White said in a jail interview with the Associated Press. “I never knew I was on the run.”

Mrs. White was arrested more than two years after she was charged with custodial interference in the children’s disappearance, the U.S. Marshals Service said. Her ex-husband, Ernest Karnes, had custody of the children at the time and learned Friday that they had been found.

“The first thing that come out of his mouth was, ‘Did they get my kids, too? Are my kids OK?’” Gila County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Detective Johnny Holmes said yesterday.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Mrs. White “radically changed her appearance to that of a man and assumed many aliases,” including her ex-husband’s.

“She even went so far as to tell her children, aged 3 and 5 at the time, that she was their father,” the Marshals Service said. “When she was arrested, the children, now aged 6 and 8, asked why they were arresting their daddy.”

Mrs. White told the AP that one of her children, scared by authorities breaking into their home Friday, did say she was their father. Mrs. White also said she told her son to tell children who made fun of her appearance that she was his father.

But Deputy U.S. Marshal Dennis Harkins said Mrs. White had posed as her husband and other men since leaving Arizona.

“She was playing it off for all the world to see that she was a man,” Deputy Marshal Harkins said.

Under the terms of the divorce, Mr. Karnes had custody of the children, a boy and a girl, but his wife had visitation rights, Mr. Holmes said.

He said Mrs. White could take the children to Tucson when she lived there, but neither parent could leave the state with them without the other’s permission.

Mrs. White, who signed a waiver of extradition on the fugitive warrant yesterday, denied abducting her children.

“I didn’t steal my children, and I didn’t take my children,” she said. “When I left Arizona, I had custody.”

Mr. Holmes said that after charging Mrs. White with custodial interference in January 2004, authorities were able to trace the children to various schools, but always came up empty.

Mr. Karnes and his current wife flew to North Carolina on Sunday to seek custody of the children from Halifax County authorities. They hoped to see the children yesterday and take them back to Arizona, WRAL reported.

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