Tired but still engaging after an all-night journey from Maine, a 9-year-old boy said in Orange County on Saturday that he is happy to be back in California.
Four years after he allegedly was abducted by his baby sitter, Kristopher Michael Siegel and his mother, Janice Siegel, 28, of Riverside, were reunited in Bangor, Me., late Friday night. They then flew in a private jet to Orange County, arriving about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Kristopher said his mother was "pretty good company," and that he is looking forward to making friends in Riverside, visiting Disneyland and riding a present that awaited him--a new dirt bike.
"I feel like crying probably forever," Janice Siegel said Saturday afternoon at the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center in Orange.
"I feel like half the battle is over. Finding a missing child is difficult. It takes everything out of you. Now the other half (of the battle) is getting to know my son again," she said.
They plan to undergo therapy together to work out any problems that might arise as a result of their long separation, she said.
The reunion followed a four-week investigation that began when Kristopher told another boy that he was from California but was sad that he could never return home. A policeman overheard the conversation, according to Adam Walsh center officials, and authorities were able to identify Kristopher by his picture in a directory of missing and abducted children compiled by Child Find Inc.
Earlier Friday, Kristopher's baby sitter, Leslie Helen Moore, 38, of Orland, Me., was arraigned in connection with the abduction, Bangor Police Detective Roy McKinney said. Moore was arrested by the FBI and other authorities Thursday on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, based on warrants issued for her in Oregon. She was being held at the Penobscot County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Kristopher was allegedly abducted Aug. 17, 1982, from La Grande, Ore., where his divorced mother, originally from Riverside, was living at the time, said Susan Davidson, executive director of the Walsh center in Orange, which attempts to find missing children and aid abused youths.
But Siegel's battle for her son actually spans seven years. When Kristopher was two years old, Moore took off with the boy while Siegel--then living in Oregon and working as a truck driver--was on a 10-day trip, said Pamela Harris-Oedekerk, victim services director at the Adam Walsh office.
Moore was armed with a "permission slip," signed by Siegel, intended to be used in case Kristopher needed emergency medical care while in Moore's care, the caseworker said.
Dispute in Court
It took Siegel two years to find Moore and Kristopher, and a difficult custody battle began between the two women. For a while, Siegel was granted only visitation rights but eventually won full custody, Harris-Oedekerk said. Court authorities gave Moore 24 hours to relinquish Kristopher, but instead she fled with the boy, she said.
Moore's attorney, Marshall Stern, said she filed papers in 1982 in an Oregon court in an attempt to adopt the boy.
In Maine, Kristopher attended St. John's Elementary School for two years in Bangor under the name "Kristopher Smith." During that time, Moore lived at the St. Francis Community, or H.O.M.E. Inc., as "Patricia Smith."
According to the Associated Press, H.O.M.E. is a nonprofit, residential community offering such services as day care, a sawmill to cut lumber for the poor and a shelter for battered women.
Time for Shopping
Kristopher said he has a few fleeting earlier memories of his mother. Of the reunion Friday night in Bangor, he said: "It was fun, happy."
Saturday was spent shopping for clothes--he left Maine with only what he was wearing--and talking to reporters. Of California, he said, "I don't like it, I love it."
He also said he wants his mother to change her license plate holder.
It now reads, "My son is missing."
He said he wants it to say, "My son is back."