12/04/05 Erik is Home!
"Erik Has Come Home
Erik and I came home about 11:00 AM December 3, Erik’s fifth birthday. After three days Erik now seems to me the same boy that left me eight months ago.
Erik evidences some signs of emotional difficulties from his ordeal, but I think they are temporary. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is providing some counseling.
Erik complained of excessive spankings, but his body is free of bruises, cuts or abrasions. He appears a little thin and I weighed and measured him today and his statistics are unchanged from eight months ago. In the fourth year of his life Erik did not grow or gain weight.
His vocabulary is sprinkled with sub Standard English phrases like “don’t got”, “ain’t” and “how come?” but he is responding to father’s gentle corrections. His cognitive reasoning does seem improved.
Some may be interested in some details so I enclose the following based on interviews of several people. This is the chronology:
April 25, 2005: Steven Streight, 53, and Karen O’Grady 50, abandon the Fernley Nevada home being paid for by Karen’s husband by a marriage subsequently annulled for fraud. They take with them my son, age 4, and travel in an unregistered small 1979 motor home painted white with bright blue stripes. For eight months their whereabouts would remain
The couple head south on Nevada Highway 95 and arrive in three days in Alamogordo, New Mexico. In the heat of the summer they initially move into free campgrounds at altitude in the Lincoln National forest. Steven Streight works sporadically at roofing jobs and general labor. He insists he be paid in cash only and he is fired several times.
By mid summer they move to Albuquerque and do most of their camping in Wall Mart parking lots with access to cheap food and restroom facilities.
Erik is told his real father is Steven Streight and is instructed to call him “Daddy”. Erik complies. He is told I am in Chicago and do not give a damn.
The investigation is plagued by lack of tips and poor information. A PI gets excited about phone calls from Karen’s parent’s home to a wealthy bay area engineer. The calls turn out to be Karen’s sister calling her boyfriend. O’Grady’s family tells investigators that the couple is in New Mexico and Streight’s family tell them they are in Texas. Much of the investigation is focused on Texas. I also provide bad tips to investigators and based on one of these detectives from the San Diego Police Department are dispatched to San Felipe, Mexico, a place the abductors never went.
I wish to thank Detective Cherie Rye, Sheriff Sid Smith, and the Lyon County District Attorney, for their patience and hard work.
Shortly before Thanksgiving Streight is fired again and Karen O’Grady becomes disenchanted with the lack of financial support and WalMart parking lot camping. On the morning of November 29 she enters the WalMart where they are camping and sees a NCMEC poster with a picture of Erik and herself and the notation that Lyon County has issued a felony kidnapping warrant for her arrest. NCMEC has placed similar posters in all WalMarts throughout the South Western and Western United States.
Then Erik’s mother does something that shocks everybody that knows anything about this abduction. She goes to a pay phone at WalMart and calls the NCMEC hotline. She tells them she wishes to turn Erik over to Social Services and herself over to the police. She gives a description of herself and says she and Erik are in the toy department.
A store manager arrives first and Karen urges them to hurry up because she does not want her boyfriend to know or to come into the store looking for them.
The police arrive first and take Erik to a nearby McDonalds. Erik’s mother is then taken into custody by Albuquerque police and is now awaiting extradition to Lyon County, Nevada. Streight is not arrested.
Erik is told his mother has “disappeared” and is placed in a Spanish speaking home for the night. A traumatic experience for the blond haired, blue eyed, little boy who knows no Spanish? The next day Erik would tell me that the oldest woman in that Hispanic household that knew not one word of English was his “Grandmother” and that he loved her!
Detective Cherie Rye of Lyon County calls me in the early afternoon of the same day and tells me Erik has been taken into protective custody in Albuquerque New Mexico. I check with Map Quest and see the distance is 1,035 miles. I start packing and leave Reno at 4:30 PM. I drive though the night and stop only to buy gas. Sixteen hours later at 11:30 AM, November 30, 2005, I arrive at Albuquerque Social Services. After a one-hour exit interview with three Social Workers and presentation of certified copies of all my custody court orders I take custody of my son at 1:00 PM. I call Lyon County and inform them I at last have my son.
We all wanted to see pictures of this reunion. We wanted to see Erik leap into my arms crying Daddy, Daddy. That is not what happened. Erik did not recognize me and pushed me away. Later he told me it was because of my gray hair. Indeed the eight-month ordeal had turned my formerly dark hair salt and pepper.
For the first two hours Erik was hostile. He is a smart boy and on his own he had figured out that his mother had not “disappeared” but had gone to jail. Not surprisingly, he blamed me. He had also been brainwashed into believing I was not his father.
But by bedtime Erik was wrapped around my body telling me, “Daddy, I love you”. It only took a few hours. We spent December 1 and December 2 in Albuquerque touring zoos, parks and aquariums. Erik was very impressed with the Motel room with clean sheets and bathtub with hot water. On the afternoon of December 2 we left Albuquerque and with Erik sleeping I repeated the marathon 1000-mile drive back to Reno.
We arrived back in Reno by noon, December 3, Erik’s fifth birthday. I bought him a new toy train for his birthday. I also returned to him at least 1000 toys I had recovered from the house abandoned by his abductors. They filled an entire storage unit. Erik thought my modest apartment in Downtown Reno was a palace and was huge. Exhausted by the 1000-mile drive, I spent much of the afternoon jogging behind my son’s newly discovered bicycle. I was running on excitement and adrenaline.
Erik has come home."