GREENFIELD — A child kidnapped by his mother during a custody battle 19 years ago has returned to his Greenfield family, arriving from Mexico six months after his younger brother made the same trip home.
Police confirmed Tuesday that Andrew Slinkard, 25, who had been missing since his mother violated a court visitation order in 1995, has returned to the U.S. to reunite with his father, who hadn’t seen him since he was 7 years old. Andrew is the second of Steven Slinkard’s three missing children to surface after years of waiting and wondering; six months ago, Nathan Slinkard contacted authorities in Guadalajara, Mexico, and revealed his true identity, saying he wanted to come home.
Slinkard’s ex-wife, Trena Slinkard, fled with their children to Mexico shortly after Slinkard filed for divorce in 1995. That October, the court was in the process of determining who would take custody of Andrew, 7; Nathan, 5; and Sydney, 3, when Trena abducted the children.
Trena had been ordered by the court to drop the children off for a week-long stay with their father on the evening of Oct. 17, but she never showed up. Weeks went by with no word from the family.
Investigators tracked the Slinkards to Mexico, but the trail soon went cold. Years passed with no credible leads until early this year, when Nathan unexpectedly came forward.
Hancock County Sheriff’s Lt. Ted Munden investigated the case and served as a liaison between the Slinkard family and officials in Mexico in order to bring the Slinkard boys home after Nathan came to the American embassy in Guadalajara and told officials there he was a missing child from the United States.
Munden has spent the past six months getting to know Nathan and helping him adjust to his new life with family members here.
“He’s kind of a foreign person in his native country,” Munden said.
In building that relationship, Munden said he hoped Nathan would feel encouraged to reach out to his siblings to let them know they were welcome to come home, even if it was just for a visit.
“I hoped that they would both come back,” Munden said.
When Nathan arrived in February, he told investigators little about their past, but he confirmed that his siblings were alive and well in Mexico, where Sydney is still living.
He added that his mother was open with the children about their past and told them they could go home to their father at any time. Nathan said he and his siblings followed the news of their own abduction on the Internet over the years.
There was a federal warrant for Trena’s arrest at one point during the investigation, but it was eventually dropped in hopes it would encourage the woman to bring her children back.
The family has happily welcomed Andrew home, just as it did Nathan, Steven Slinkard’s sister told the Daily Reporter Tuesday.
In a written statement, Deb Slinkard-Pomeroy said the family never gave up hope the children would one day return.
“This is a dream come true for us, but one that we truly were not sure would ever come to pass,” she said. “There are so many questions that we have, but everything else pales to knowing they had a good childhood, they were together, and … they were safe, fed and warm.”
The family moved frequently while living in Mexico to avoid being tracked down by authorities, but the boys say their mother never spoke ill of their family back in the U.S.; she said only that she left because she didn’t want to share custody of them, Pomeroy said.
The children attended school in Mexico and quickly became fluent in the language, though they continued speaking English to one another at home and often read English books in order to stay sharp in their native tongue. Both Andrew and Nathan obtained their high school diplomas in Mexico and plan to continue their schooling now.
Nathan has been busy over the past six months obtaining his driver’s license and passing the exam to obtain a graduate-equivalency diploma.
He plans to attend Ivy Tech Community College later this month to study nursing, Slinkard-Pomeroy said. Though he’s been in the United States for just a few days, Andrew is already studying to take a driver’s test and take the exam to obtain his GED as well so he can pursue higher education.
And while they are spending time getting reacquainted with their family members, they’ve also started looking for work. Both returned with little more than a suitcase.
It’s been an overwhelming year for the Slinkards, who hope Sydney may one day join her brothers here.
“They are adjusting well to their new lives with us,” Slinkard-Pomeroy wrote. “We are all trying to get to know each other again, filling in gaps missing from our lives over the years.”