Family of Jeffery Shipman speaks out
There are two sides to every story. That's why the family of Jeffery Shipman says they're speaking out, now that Shipman, who left the country with his daughter, Deonna, five years ago, turned himself into authorities in Thailand. He has since been arrested and separated from his daughter. Our Kat De Maria sat down with the family Friday.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- For five years, Jeffery Shipman, 51, was the only one who knew where his daughter, Deonna, was seen in a video last Christmas Eve innocently playing a computer game, probably not even aware she was technically "missing."
Amid a custody battle when Deonna was just four years old, Shipman took her and fled the country.
Shipman's family, who gathered together Friday to talk with reporters, say they didn't hear from him at all until sister Cindy received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, to say Shipman, who was on the FBI's Most Wanted list, had turned himself in.
"It's just something that you don't expect, you don't know where he is, what's happening, if they're okay. Then all of a sudden you get a call from someone stating he turned himself in and where and what's going on, and it's just very shocking," Cynthia Bennett said.
Since February 24th, Cindy has received calls and e-mails with clues to the isolated life her brother and little niece had been living.
"The pictures she's drawn throughout the years are just beautiful and bright and happy pictures. The videos are always of her smiling," Bennett said. "It was nice to see how healthy they both are and how happy they were during these years."
Brother Michael said he too received an e-mail, saying Jeffery and Deonna love him, have been praying for him, and miss him.
"I think the only thing he may regret is that he lost five years being with his family with Deonna, all of us together. I think other than that he felt he had to do what he had to do to protect her," Michael Shipman said.
Michael and Cindy say they feel their brother finally turned himself in to allow Deonna to be reunited with her grandparents and other family. They have not been allowed to see her, but plan to seek custody.
"I hope the people who are in charge, the authorities, look at every aspect of this case so that there is a fair outcome," Michael Shipman said.
Deonna is expected to be reunited soon with her mother, Luba, who is said to be on her way to Syracuse from Russia. The Shipmans are still hoping for a visit.
"We love her tremendously. I would give her the biggest hug on earth," Bennett said.
Jeffery Shipman faces up to three years in prison on a charge of International Parental Kidnapping.