Fugitive dad hid kids in Panama
PANAMA. A 41-year-old charged with abducting his three daughters in 2007 chose the wooded hillside of Cerro Azul in Panama as a hide-ou...
PANAMA. A 41-year-old charged with abducting his three daughters in 2007 chose the wooded hillside of Cerro Azul in Panama as a hide-out, and his neighbors claim they smelled something fishy about him from day one.
According to an article by The News Journal and published on delawareonline.com, the former Newark optometrist, David T. Matusiewicz and his 64-year-old mother Lenore Matusiewicz allegedly violated a Delaware Family Court order and abducted the three girls.
After Mr Matusiewicz divorced Christine Belford, from Pine Creek, Delware, they had joined custody of the girls. Belford has since been awarded sole custody.
Lenore Matusiewicz bought a motor home in July 2007 which instead of being used for the intended two-week trip to Disney World, was driven into Central America. They spent some time in Costa Rica before making their way to Altos del Terreon in Cerro Azul, a gated community about an hour’s drive from the city.
Matusiewicz’s motor home was first spotted outside a real-estate agent’s property around October 2007. He and his family lived outside the agent’s property while a house he purchased was being renovated.
According to Don Winner, from Panama-Guide.com, Matusiewicz paid $175,000 cash for the house he bought from Paul Haney, a realtor who specializes in selling properties in the highlands of Cerro Azul to English-speakers.
Besides taking out a $225,000 home-equity loan by forging his ex-wife’s name, Matusiewicz also sold the building occupied by his optometry business, Vision Center of Delaware, police said. When he fled, Matusiewicz had up to $1 million in cash and wired another $500,000 to an offshore bank account.
The News Journal article quotes many of Matusiewicz’s neighbors describing the man as a reserved man, swimming in the gated community’s river or watching over his children as they played in the pool.
The only suspicions awakened were when asked about his background. It seems Matusiewicz, who claimed to be a retiree who had made money in the computer industry, could not keep stories about his wife straight. To some he would say his wife was in British Columbia selling their house, and at times he would claim she was in town taking Spanish lessons.
Neighbor Sally Row, formerly from Denver, said: “We thought he was running from something. It was nothing he said or did? It was just they were ‘off’ somehow. They weren’t open.” Row added that Matusiewicz’s mother also behaved as thought she was afraid.
Another neighbor, Rachelle Smith, had doubts about the family early on. “From day one—the first day I met him—I said, ‘I think he kidnapped his kids,’” said Smith, who checked online for kidnapped children matching the girls’ description. But she searched for kidnapped Canadian children, not Americans, because Matusiewicz was claiming to be Canadian.
Out of the blue, Matusiewicz announced he was talking the family to Belize for 30 days, which seemed odd to his neighbors. He never came back.
According to authorities, the family settled in Catalina Nicaragua, where he was going under the alias of Thomas Blanco. Matusiewicz was arrested outside Managua on March 13.
Matusiewicz and mother had a court hearing earlier this month in Florida after being returned from Central America. Mr Matusiewicz also faces federal charges for partially financing his flight by forging his ex-wife’s name on a $225,000 home-equity loan. The two face up to six years in prison.
As for the girls, they are back in their Pike Creek home with their mother, who said they are doing fine and are getting ready for school.