Search for girl reveals bitter family split
CONCORD, N.H. — Mark Nunes fondly remembers the last days he spent with his daughter Mary.
Seven years old at the time, Mary had traveled from New Hampshire to spend a week with Mark, his new wife and their two children in northern Virginia. It was August 2003, and they camped and went to the zoo and a water park.
Mark, 46, a pediatrician, was about to start a new job and buy a house, partly in hopes that Mary, who lived with his ex-wife, could begin spending more time with his family.
“I remember Mary picking out her room,” he recalls. “It was very sweet.”
But the sweetness was not to last. Their next scheduled visit, two months later, was abruptly canceled, and a year after that, Mary simply vanished.
Her disappearance with her mother and stepfather was the climax of a long, acrimonious tug of war over the child. The pair, Genevieve Kelley, 45, a family practice physician, and Scott Kelley, 44, a special-education teacher, are wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service on federal warrants for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Bitter divorces in which children become pawns are not rare, and they often include a steady stream of complaints about parental conduct ranging from frivolous to felonious. But after serving as Mary’s court-appointed advocate while Genevieve and Mark battled in court during this one, guardian ad litem Abbie Teachout leaves no doubt where she stands.
“She (Genevieve) appeared to be really, almost obsessed in her concern over Mary and that Mark had done something” to harm the child, said Teachout, who, like police investigators, found no evidence to support the mother’s complaints. “Out of all the families I’ve worked with, this was a case where parent alienation was 100 percent evident — that Genevieve was doing everything she could to alienate this child from her father, from the beginning.”
Genevieve Kelley’s family says concern for her child motivated her actions.
Mary is now 13. A forensic artist’s image of how she might look today is on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Web site.
Looking at it brings a sad realization to her father: “That my daughter’s a teenager right now…”
In his mind, she’s forever stuck at 7.
The couple met and married in the Air Force: Genevieve San Martin was a flight surgeon. Mark Nunes was specializing in genetics. They planned to have children and settle down. Mary was born in 1996.
But arguments over money and military-imposed separations eventually led Genevieve to move back to Whitefield, N.H., near her parents, and file for divorce. She got a restraining order against Mark, saying she was afraid of him. He said the worst thing he ever did was slam a door once during an argument.
“I very naively went into the entire process trying to save my marriage,” he said.
The divorce was granted in 1998 on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Genevieve had primary custody of Mary; Mark traveled from Biloxi, Miss., for monthly, long weekend-type visits. The two eventually married others, but when it came to Mary’s care, the arguments never ended.
Genevieve complained to Teachout that Mary was starved during Mark’s visits; he said that was impossible. She said Mary, who was born prematurely, had developmental delays; he disagreed.
Teachout recalls one visit she made to Genevieve’s house:
“Mary was crawling and on her way to walking … the whole living room was covered in blankets and pillows and every time this baby would go to move, someone would be there hanging onto her. And I had concerns at that point that this baby wasn’t going to be able to develop appropriately if you didn’t let her go.”
As Mary grew, Genevieve and Mark communicated through a notebook Mary brought with her on flights to Mississippi. If Mark wanted to call Mary, he had to reach her at assigned times — and the calls weren’t always answered or returned.
In October 2003, as Mark was getting ready to fly up to see his daughter, the visit was canceled. Based on what Genevieve said were Mary’s words and actions, she told police that Mark had sexually abused the child.
He said he had wondered “when the sexual abuse card was going to be played. … I was supposed to disappear.”
He was never charged and was cleared a year later by police and state investigators who felt he had been unfairly accused.
The state Division of Children, Youth and Families interviewed Mary. “There wasn’t information that gave us reason to believe that this child had been harmed by her father or anyone else, for that matter,” said Lorraine Bartlett, the division’s child protection administrator. The agency provided information about the case to The Associated Press only after getting permission from Mark.
The child underwent a court-approved evaluation at a clinic in Portland, Maine. The family moved in 2004 to Colorado, where Mary was evaluated by two doctors.
At one point, Genevieve gave authorities homemade videotapes of Mary to support her case. (Family members quoted Scott as saying a counselor treating Mary suggested they make the tapes.)
“It was an extraordinarily disturbing tape,” Mark said, noting his daughter sometimes screamed and hid from the camera. Child welfare workers, police and prosecutors said the tape showed leading conduct on Genevieve’s part.
“Clearly Mom was interfering with and providing information to the child and how she was questioning her, leading her to certain statements, literally making statements, ‘This is what happened, yes? Daddy did this, right?’ … We would never be able to go forward with any of this,” Bartlett said.
The clinic evaluating Mary also “raised some concern” about the mother’s role, Bartlett said. “Is Mom contributing to some of the anxiety and some of these other things being said by this child?”
Wayne Rioux, who was Whitefield police chief at the time, said the Kelleys were trying to indoctrinate Mary “into not only hating her father but trying to make her say things against her father.”
In the fall of 2004, a judge ordered Mary brought to Bartlett’s agency in advance of a scheduled evaluation at the clinic. But mother and child never showed up. By the end of November, authorities discovered that Mary, now 8, hadn’t attended school in Colorado for at least a month, and the family’s mail was undeliverable.
That December, Mark was given legal custody of Mary. In 2005, the Kelleys were indicted on a charge of interference with custody.
Beth Kelley, Scott’s sister, said Genevieve was doing everything she could to help her daughter and wasn’t sure whom she could trust anymore.
“I think they absolutely realized that when they left that they would be probably not coming back at all,” Beth said. “I’m sure that it was the worst decision that the two of them ever had to make in their entire lives. But they had to do it for Mary’s sake if there was even a chance that she was going to have to see her father again.”
Beth had befriended Genevieve at a health care practice where they worked and introduced her to Scott. The two, both divorced, hit it off and got married at a drive-by chapel in Las Vegas, Beth said.
Sometimes her brother’s family missed family get-togethers, saying Mary was having behavioral problems, Beth said.
A counselor in Concord treated Mary for post-traumatic stress disorder, Beth said. She quoted her brother as saying Mary seemed to be doing much better after she saw the doctors in Colorado.
“Mother was really like a ship without a rudder trying to find the best way she could to support her child,” one of the Colorado psychiatrists, Dr. Ron Minson, testified at a hearing in October 2004. He agreed that something had traumatized Mary, but declined to comment about whether she had been abused.
Family members have not heard from Scott, Genevieve and Mary, Beth said. “We prefer to picture them sitting on a beach holding a drink with an umbrella in it,” she said.
Genevieve’s parents, George and Regina San Martin, also have not heard from their daughter since she disappeared, said John McKinnon, their attorney. “There’s nothing. There’s been not one communication, there’s been not one postcard, one letter,” he said.
A police search of their home in 2005 turned up years of stored utility bills, yet no phone records; the San Martins said they shred the phone bills.
Several thousand dollars’ worth of travelers cheques were found in Mrs. San Martin’s purse, and she said she used them to pay bills, according to former Whitefield Police Sgt. Shawn White, who conducted the search. The San Martins’ computer showed they were researching real estate in Texas, and White said Mrs. San Martin had asked him if her daughter was stopped in Texas whether she would be brought back to New Hampshire. He advised that she would.
The couple declined to be interviewed for this story.
Marshals investigating the Kelleys’ 2004 disappearance have received help from the U.S. State Department, Interpol and other agencies.
The family could be living in the United States. But the marshals say they initially went to Central America and were in at least two countries there. Genevieve, who speaks fluent Spanish and had lived in Spain, used to travel to the region with Mark.
“She could blend right in,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal William Marr.
The marshals put out an alert to traveling emergency medical service workers about a condition Mary has — arteriovenous malformation — marked by seizures, headaches, bleeding and other symptoms. They’ve followed Internet leads, even reaching out to a Web site that looks for stolen horses; two horses Mary used to ride vanished, too.
Mark Nunes would like to know where his teenage daughter is. He keeps pictures of the younger Mary on his mantel. His 8-year-old son, now older than Mary was when Mark last saw her, sometimes asks about her. Mark also has a 5-year-old daughter and once hoped the children would make a difference in each other’s lives.
“That’s gone. That’s shattered,” he said.
On the Net:
Filed under Uncategorized | Tags: Colorado, Concord, Crimes Against Children, Divorce, Divorce And Separations, Missing Persons, N.h., New Hampshire, North America, school, Searching-for-mary, Spain, Travel, United States | Comment Below