The woman charged with abducting a 9-year-old boy who was flown to Southern California after being reunited with his natural mother said she had legal custody of the boy for most of his life and loves him as a son.
Leslie Helen Moore, 38, in a telephone interview from a jail in Bangor, Me., described herself as an "emotional wreck" as she waits to be bailed out.
Moore, of Orland, Me., was arrested by the FBI and local authorities Thursday and charged Friday with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, based on warrants issued for her in Oregon. She is being held on $50,000 bail.
She is wanted in Oregon, the FBI said, on charges of "custodial interference" and contempt of court in the case involving young Kristopher Michael Siegel.
Interest in Well-Being
"Kris and I love each other and feel we're mother and son," Moore said. "For us to be parted is very bad for him. . . . But mostly I am interested in his emotional and psychological well-being."
Kristopher was returned to Southern California Friday night after his mother, Janis Siegel, 28, of Riverside, flew in a private jet to get him, in a trip arranged by the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center of Orange. Siegel showed authorities documents that she said proved she should have custody of her son, and the two immediately returned to Orange County, arriving early Saturday.
But Moore, speaking from a pay telephone in the Penobscot County Jail late Sunday, took sharp exception to the account of the alleged abduction and reunion that was offered by Siegel, police and the Walsh Center.
"I would like to make it possible for the three of us (Moore, Siegel and Kristopher) to get along," she said. "I'm real frustrated because I can't do anything locked up in here. I'm mostly really, really worried for Kris. I feel bad for him, real sorry for him, and I think it's terrible that (authorities) won't even let us talk on the telephone to let me console him."
According to Pam Harris-Oedekerk, victim services director at the Adam Walsh center, Siegel originally befriended Moore and asked her to be young Kristopher's baby sitter when Siegel was working as a truck driver in Oregon seven years ago. While Siegel was gone on a 10-day trip, Moore took off with the boy, the caseworker said. 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.
Moore called the allegations "lies."
"I was not the slightest bit of baby sitter" Moore said. "I had custody of him. I had custody of him for seven of his nine years, and for his first two years she (Siegel) didn't have much to do with him at all." According to an FBI agent in Portland, Ore., who issued a statement on the case over the weekend, Kristopher's mother, whom the FBI identified as Janis Belanger, lived with Moore in a Clackamas, Ore., commune before 1979. At that time, said Theodore M. Gardner, special agent in charge of the FBI's Portland, Ore., office, Belanger gave "temporary custody" of her son to Moore.
Boy Taken From Commune
Moore eventually left the commune, taking Kristopher with her and living in various locations across the nation until settling in Bangor in 1984, where she used the name Patricia Smith, the FBI said.
Moore said she had been given custody of Kristopher by a judge in Union County, Ore.
She gave this account of what happened:
"The judge had to consider Janis as the natural parent. He had to give Janis a chance" to prove she could take care of her son. While Siegel struggled to get her life together, Moore added, Moore was allowed to take care of the boy.
Officials from the FBI, various police agencies and district attorney offices in Maine and Oregon said Monday that efforts are under way to extradite Moore to Oregon.
"The main thing I want to express is Kris is now 9 years old, and he's going through pure hell by being away from me now," Moore said. "Janis has been playing on this 'child find' thing since it all began. . . . For Kris, I just hope that somebody can see that he needs to have eventually some contact with me."