- After more than two years on
the run with her daughters, Heidi
Raleigh is back in Springfield to
answer a criminal fugitive charge.
But not the way she planned it.
Raleigh, who returned to the area
after consultation with her legal
team, planned to turn herself in to
authorities July 11 so long as her
daughters were relinquished to the
care of family members, she said.
But Chicopee police arrested her first.
Raleigh had been hiding in battered
women's shelters after a Florida court
awarded custody of her daughters to
her ex-husband, Derek Smith of Cape
Coral. A subsequent Hampden County
Probate Court order upheld the Florida
She returned to Chicopee. On July
6, she said she was at her sister-in-law's
apartment when the Chicopee police
broke down the door.
Raleigh has since been arraigned,
pleaded innocent to charges, was released
on bail and is staying with her mother
A hearing is scheduled tomorrow in
Hampden Juvenile Court to determine
if the girls will remain in Department
of Social Service custody or be returned
to their father.
Raleigh initially ran with her daughters
in 2002 because she said she feared
for her life and the lives of her
girls after the custody reversal.
Raleigh contends Smith abused her,
and court documents show Raleigh and
another of Smith's former wives testified
they received restraining orders against
him for physical abuse.
Smith strongly denies abusing Raleigh
and said she is using the accusation
as a weapon in the custody fight.
The inability of the courts to resolve
disputes among some divorcing parents
has always been a factor in family
abductions. But the Smith/Raleigh
case is unusual in that Heidi Raleigh
lost custody of her children even
though she was never deemed an unfit
parent by any court.
The girls, McKenna, 9, and Taylor,
8, are now together in a foster home.
Their father wants them returned to
Florida, according to his attorney,
James M. Smith of Springfield.
"I feel that he is correct legally,"
The lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss
a 2003 care and protection order giving
the Department of Social Service custody
of the children - a move that was
authorized after a juvenile court
investigation found the children were
at risk for abuse if they were returned
to their father. However, a Florida
court had ruled that there was no
evidence that he ever abused the children.
Smith said the federal Parental Kidnapping
Prevention Act supersedes the Hampden
Juvenile Court's emergency court order.
Denise Monteiro, spokeswoman for the
Department of Social Services, said
the agency is trying to do what is
best for the girls by keeping them
together and trying to retain custody
"If we can keep them here and
have supervised visits with their
father - both parents, that is important.
They have not seen this man and they
do not know him well and that is an
important component of custody,"
Meanwhile, Heidi Raleigh now sees
her daughters on supervised visits
- one hour, a few days a week.
Raleigh's next court hearing for parental
interference is Aug. 16 in Hampden
Story in The Republican today (masslive.com)
about Heidi Raleigh, Chicopee, kidnapping
her kids from Florida dad who has
custody. Springfield judge uphold
the Fla. order. Can someone research
and post to the list. I don't have
access to MassLive from my work. Thank