The last time Julie Coleman, of House Springs, Mo., saw her daughter Taylor Hill was June 8, 2002. That day, her then-husband, Arlen “Ace” Dean Hill II, picked up the girl, then one year old, for what was supposed to be a two-week visit. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an estimated 200,000 unsuspecting parents each year find themselves in the same situation. Coleman did not guess her spouse would disappear with their child. She certainly never thought she’d be without her daughter for so long.
The majority of parental abductions are resolved quickly, many the same day the child is reported missing. But 25 percent last a month or more, and 7 percent – still hundreds or even thousands of children – last more than six months says David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Despite the life-altering impact parental abductions have on the children taken and the parents left behind, advocates with missing children’s groups lament that such cases are paid too little attention. Most attention is focused on abductions of children by strangers, of which there are 100 to 300 in the U.S. each year.
“Not enough people really understand the seriousness of (parental abductions) and the danger and trauma that it causes to the child and, actually, even how many of these cases are out there every year,” said Jenni Thompson of The Polly Klaas Foundation in Petaluma, Calif.