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Split Decision Mother Angry Court Lets Father Have Visits With Kids She Claims He ‘Kidnapped’

Tue., May 7, 1996, midnight

Brenda Argo fears her girls were “kidnapped” again Monday afternoon - by their father.

Argo spent more than two years trying to find Ariel, 5, and Stephanie, 4. She knew they were with their Dad, but she didn’t know where he was.

After her relationship with her boyfriend ended, Argo got a court order in February 1994 stating their children should live with her.

By then, however, the ex-boyfriend and the girls had disappeared.

Argo enlisted the help of a Spokane County sheriff’s detective and national missing-children groups, but nobody could locate them.

Last month, Hawaiian authorities solved the mystery. They spotted Ariel and Stephanie, matching them to “MISSING” fliers with photographs of the girls in pajamas.

Police held the girls until the Commission on Missing and Exploited Children flew Argo to Honolulu to bring the kids back to her Spokane home.

The reunion was short-lived.

On Monday, a Spokane County Superior Court commissioner decided joint custody was the best solution until a court-appointed investigator can determine what’s best for the kids. Commissioner Royce Moe said Argo shouldn’t get sole custody at this time because the children haven’t bonded adequately with her yet.

Argo disagreed.

“Ariel has been Super-Glued to my hip since I picked her up,” she said.

Moe ordered the children to be returned Monday afternoon to their father, Stephen Hadley, for the first of a regular series of visits. He is supposed to return them to Argo on Sunday.

Argo, 24, claims the court is rewarding Hadley, 33, for “stealing” the children two years ago. And she doesn’t think she’ll get them back.

“I feel like history’s repeating itself,” she said. “I feel like it’s going to happen again. I think he’s going to go right back to Hawaii.”

In an interview Monday, Hadley said he never had any intention of running away with the children, nor does he now.

“I’m not going to keep the kids from their mom,” he said.

Hadley said he didn’t know Argo was trying to find him and the children until he got a phone call that Honolulu police had seized his children.

“I couldn’t find her,” he said, claiming she had moved 10 times in the past two years.

Hadley also said he can’t understand why it was hard for anyone to find him and the children. He said he had had correspondence with Washington state when he tried to get Argo to pay child support.

“I want the children to stay with me. I have a more stable future,” he said.

Argo, who has two other children with her fiance, lives on welfare.

Hadley said he has a five-bedroom home in Honolulu and a job as a construction supervisor. The girls are in a good school in a good community, he said.

Hadley said he will stay in Spokane as long as it takes to get legal custody of the girls. He posted a required $2,000 bond designed to prevent him from leaving with them until the case is resolved.

The two children had different vantages on what was happening Monday.

Ariel indicated she didn’t want to leave her mother but said she expects her father is going to take her and her little sister back to Hawaii. “That’s what he did last time,” she said.

Stephanie looked calm, sucking down Kool-Aid. She said she is looking forward to getting back with her father.

Police were at Argo’s home Monday afternoon when the children left with their father.

Argo said she doesn’t expect to see her girls Sunday, as the court ordered.

“I told them I’ll always love them,” Argo said, “and that they’ll always be in my prayers.” She left her telephone number in their pockets beneath the word “MOMMY.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos


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