Friday, December 31, 2010

In the Garden of Intergenerational Love (for W)

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

My grandparents lived at the edge of town, in a wood frame house in the Sacramento valley that they had surrounded with flower and vegetable gardens, trellises, grape vines and cactuses that thrived in the California sun, a chicken coop in the back, where the rooster roamed.

They had planted fruit trees, apricot, peach, plum, walnut, almond, fig and olive, long before I was born and they all easily bore my weight and that of my brother, our cousins and friends, significant chunks of childhood spent up in those trees or throwing figs at each other, racing around the house and barn or into the fields across the street. I never acquired a taste for figs, but they made superb missiles, much better than the other fruits and vegetables near at hand, and the seasonal fig fights began as soon as they were large enough to throw, still green on the tree.

My grandparents grew corn, grapes, tomatoes, peppers and chilies, cucumbers, squash, beans and peas, all destined for the kitchen table, where my grandmother made fresh tortillas every morning, where a pot of beans was always steaming on the stove, never so warm as the love she gave us children, memories of my grandmother and her red and white checked tablecloth….

My father also kept a vegetable garden in our backyard, where he spent many an hour working his stress into the earth, a facet I did not understand until later, after he was gone, and I had become an adult working in my own garden, the soil absorbing my own stress, clearing my mind, building a life for my own young family, tomato plant by tomato plant.

My father suffered a series of heart attacks, two of them while working in his garden amid the corn stalks and jalapenos. There were tears in his eyes when he told me that he would no longer be able to work out there, his heart going bad in those days before bypass surgery was available, the technology that would have saved his life not quite invented yet, and he was gone in 1975 at a youthful 52 years of age, far too soon.

My grandmother passed in 1980 at the age of 80, at least 50 of those years spent in that house, in that kitchen, in the gardens. After the house was sold, the new owners allowed the property to sink into neglect, and within a couple of years the entire garden was dead, most of the trees cut down, a tragedy, an affront, a paradise lost.

When I work in my own garden, I think of my father and my grandmother mostly. I think about the life they built for me, the foundations they laid, the garden paths they designed. I understand how valuable gardening time was to my father, and I know that I honor him when I work out there. I speak to my father in my garden.

In the eight years that I have lived here in this house, I have put hundreds of plants into the ground, all with thoughts of my parents, my grandparents and my children, all with reflections on the past, the present, the future. Plants, you see, are often not just plants….

I put fruit trees into the earth, cherry, peach and apricot, in part to connect me to those California gardens I grew up in, but the climate in Portland does not favor these varieties, and after having only one good crop, I’ve taken out the peach and apricot. I'll replace the cherries this spring.

I planted an olive tree a few years ago. It’s about eight feet tall now, and I’m going to learn how to cure the olives pretty soon.

I have a remnant of my grandmother's garden, an old concrete birdbath on a pedestal, a frog figure on top, that part broken decades ago, standing in an honored place under my olive tree, shaded, protected, priceless....

I’ve planted strawberries, blueberries, cactus, bamboo, sage, all the common garden vegetables, potatoes to tomatoes, and built a greenhouse from recycled glass doors and windows and assorted found objects, painted up in many bright colors, a couple of murals on the fence.

I like to think that after I am gone, the garden will endure, will live on, that someone will work it, knowing the linkage and the history, that the connection between this garden and my father’s garden and my grandmother’s garden will be unbroken, a legacy of fruit and vegetables and the earth to be sure, but most importantly a legacy of love, of intergenerational love, born in a grandmother’s heart, and shared on a red and white checkered tablecloth.

Before my four children disappeared in 1996 in a Mormon kidnapping, I used to work my garden with my children, like my father before me.

My grandparents names were Victor and Dominga Cruz; my parents names were John and Olive Cruz; my children’s names Natalia, Aaron, Tyler, Allie…. Honor to you, love always….

I tend a garden of intergenerational love. Sometimes it tastes like cucumbers, sometimes like snow peas, today it tastes like unfrozen strawberries, Oregon strawberries from the east side of the house….

It always tastes of love….

Monday, December 6, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz: Interlude 1: Quality Time

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Anyone with a large family would know how difficult it is to have quality time alone with each of your children separately, times when it is just the two of you and the time and experience together is genuinely “quality” time for everyone.

As a divorced single parent with two boys and two girls and an order for joint custody, time with my children was always at a premium, and how to satisfy each of their differing interests, wants and needs simultaneously always a balancing act as the months and years went by.

Aaron created a way for him and me to share some regular quality time together, and he made it happen on his own initiative during the year before he and my other children disappeared into Utah.

During the school year, the joint custody order stated that the children would reside with me immediately after school on Fridays and through the weekends at varying lengths.

Every Friday, after picking up my children, we would stop at a grocery store on the way home, so each of the kids could have input into what foods we would have for meals and snacks during our time together. The kids and I would negotiate our preferences as we walked through the store so that everyone left happy about something.

This is how grocery shopping became part of our quality time together as a family, except for my mom, who was housebound from her chronic illnesses. I was my mother’s sole caregiver in those days.

Aaron hungered for something more than food, however. He hungered for more time with me, just the two of us, and he developed a plan to carve that time out every Friday. I was skeptical at first, but he worked his plan to perfection.

He found out what each of his sisters and his brother wanted from the store, and he asked them for backups if their first choices weren’t available. Aaron put a lot of effort into his interviews with his siblings, because he wanted to eliminate each of their desires to go shopping with us, this week and every week.

These could be very complex arrangements, fascinating to listen to their negotiations, how they planned their snacks, with much bartering and swapping and sharing after the grocery run.

Under his system, Aaron and I would drop the other kids at home with my mother, where Natalia and Tyler would generally make a beeline for the video games and Allie would play with my mom’s dachshund Sox, and all of the kids together would provide love and companionship for their grandmother, and he and I would make our grocery run for my family, for our family. Everyone was content at the very same time.

Our last grocery run together was Saturday, February 10, 1996. Aaron, Natalia, Tyler and Allie disappeared two days later, on their way to the home of Mormon zealots Chris and Kory Wright in a remote area in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah, I would later learn. This was the first place that my children were concealed.

I think about Aaron every time I set foot in a grocery store, ever since those days we were together as a family.

I miss his companionship and how he would explain to me in exquisite detail what item was for which child as he placed things into our shopping cart.

I could enjoy this time with Aaron free of anxiety for the other kids and for my mom, because they were home together and they were all safe. I would hold off shopping for myself until Fridays, so I could go with Aaron. I also hungered for that time.

Aaron would distribute the snacks and treats to the other kids when we got back to the house, and there was never a disappointed word.

All was good under the sun, dependably good, every Friday afternoon, without fail. I still have the grocery receipts.

When I recovered Aaron from the abduction in 2003, he was too ill to go shopping, and then he was ordered to return to Utah for deployment to Iraq, and then he became more ill there in Payson, and then came his Last Days.

To this day, I never enter a grocery store without thinking of Aaron, without feeling his absence, without remembering that last day that my family was safe, together and at home.

And then the Mormons entered the picture, and with them an abduction and a program….

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 4: A terrible feeling...a note to mom....

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

I awoke that April morning with a terrible feeling, with a sense that something dreadful was taking place. I was worried about Aaron, who was living in his mother’s empty house in Payson, Utah. He hadn’t answered his cell phone in several days, which happened from time to time and always caused me worry, and I considered calling the Payson police department to ask them to do a welfare check on my son.

There was an unknown element of risk to Aaron in getting the Payson PD involved, however, as I had little confidence that they could check on a person in crisis and not make matters worse, one way or another. There was much history where they had gotten things wrong in the past, this small-town Mormon police department on the edge of the desert, a story for another day.

I decided to try to get help from the Veterans Administration instead of the police, and when I arrived at my desk in the Oregon Senate that morning, I called Jim Willis, Director of Oregon’s Department of Veteran Affairs and told him about my worries. Jim assured me that they could help, that they could contact the Utah VA, that the VA does welfare checks on veterans in all sorts of crisis circumstances and that they do so frequently.

I was far more comfortable with the notion that my son would get a surprise visit from soldiers than from armed Mormon police officers, the same ones who had targeted Aaron for arrest in the past, more stories for another day. Payson is a small town with an infamous, lurid history, scene of non-Mormon settlers massacred by Mormons, polygamous horror stories, child brides marrying middle-aged Mormon men in the shadow of a powerful church.

Aaron did not fit in here, nor did his circle of friends, all rebels against the Mormon order, rebels without plan or leadership and bereft of resources, the local throwaway kids, every single one, some dying young from suicide and/or drug overdose, all sharing the same bleak shrunken vision of their own potential.

The local police were notoriously hostile to these kids.

Like any other parent, I was in the habit of worrying about my children whenever they were out of my sight, which in this ninth year since their 1996 abduction meant that worry was my constant companion, present in every breath of air, in every pulse through my heart, but today the worry was very strong and it was difficult to concentrate on my work. We were deep into the 2005 legislative session, but my mind was in Utah.

My fears were confirmed the following morning, when I received a call from the Payson Police Department. A friend of Aaron’s had grown worried about him and broke into the house, where he found my son lying unconscious on the floor.

This officer speaking to me had answered the 911 call, had found Aaron comatose in his mother’s house and as we spoke my son was in an ambulance on its way to the emergency room.

The officer told me that Aaron was unresponsive. I understood what that meant. He said that Aaron had apparently been there alone for three days, had not answered the door or his phone, and one of his friends had broken in and called the police.

He told me that they were unable to locate my son’s mother, so they were calling me. He gave me the hospital’s phone number.

The first time I called the ER, Aaron was in the elevator on his way up to that floor, the nurse said, to ICU, and she asked me to call back in 15 minutes.

When we spoke again, Aaron was in ICU, hooked up to the machines, but remained unresponsive. She gave me no cause for optimism.

I was on a flight to Salt Lake City early the following morning, paid for with money I had to borrow from friends. I had spent out all of my savings, leveraged all of my resources keeping Aaron alive over the past two years, and was now down to living from paycheck to paycheck.

I spoke into my son’s ear when I arrived at his bedside in the intensive care unit, “Aaron, it’s your Dad. Your daddy’s here, son,” I told him again and again. I don’t know if there was enough life left in him to hear me, but I know that hearing is the last sense to go, and I spoke into his ear. “I’m here, son, your Dad’s here, I will not leave you….”

I stayed with him for the next five days, sleeping either in a chair in his room or on a couch down the hall. I didn’t check into a motel until after they pronounced my beautiful son dead. Although he was on life support and technically alive in ICU, his fingers were stiff and his flesh hard, and I held no illusions about how this nightmare would turn out.

Hospital personnel met with Aaron’s mother and I on April 25. Aaron’s heart was strong, but there was no brain activity and no hope, and we agreed to end life support. Aaron was an organ donor, so they would need him for a couple of more days while they figured out what parts they could use to give life to someone else.

I clipped a lock of hair from the back of his head then and said goodbye to my son.

I left the hospital to see the place where my son had died.

The house was on a residential street near the center of town. No one was there. I saw where the door had been broken, and I walked inside.

The house was smaller than I had expected, with just two bedrooms on the main floor. A third room in the basement had apparently been used as a bedroom by my sons, but it was not up to code, with no fire egress. The walls and ceiling down there were painted black. It would have been a horrible place to live as a child, as a teenager. It was like a dungeon, this place where my children had been forced to live. The toilet in the basement bathroom had turned completely black. I’ve never seen anything like it. It must have taken months to get like that.

The only furniture was a bed and a couch, just stuff his mother had abandoned when she eloped with her fifth husband and moved out to El Dorado Hills, California, leaving Aaron behind. Years later, I would learn that Ben and Gina Foulk own and operate a string of senior care homes there.

There wasn’t much food in the house, and little to suggest that it had been a home recently. Cardboard boxes were stacked here and there, car parts and tools, clothes.

Wherever Aaron’s body had been lying when he was found had been cleaned up. There were no prescription bottles anywhere. Aaron would have had dozens of empty RX bottles. He never threw them out. He was a chain smoker. All traces of smoking were gone, too. No alcohol present. I was sure that Aaron had run out of his anti-seizure meds, but his mother had gotten there ahead of me and tweaked the scene.

I found a note in there, however, two pages long, written in Aaron’s hand on a yellow pad, and it read:

“In my hour of need, NO your not there
and though I reached out for you
you wouldn’t lend a hand.

“Through my darkest hour, grace did not shine on me
it feels so cold, so very cold, No one cares for me!

“did you ever think that I get lonely, did you ever think that I needed love,
did you ever think to stop thinking you’re the only one that I’m thinking of.
You’ll never know how hard I tried to find a space to satisfy you too.

“Things will be better when I’m dead and gone.

“Don’t try to understand, knowing you, I’m probably wrong.

“But oh how I’ve lived my life for you, still you turned away.
Now as I die for you, my flesh still crawls as I breathe your name.

“All this time I thought I was wrong, now I know it was you.
Raise your head, raise your face, your eyes tell me who you think you are.

“I walk, I walk Alone into the promised land, there’s a better place for me,
but its far far away.

“Everlasting life for me in a perfect world, But I Gotta Die first!
So please God send me on my way!
Time has a way of taking time. Loneliness is not only felt by fools.

“Alone I call to ease the pain of yearning to be held by you.
Alone so Alone I’m lost consumed by the pain!
I begged, I begged won’t you hold me again? You just laughed
My whole life was work built on the past, the time has come when all things shall pass
This good thing passed away….

“Don’t remember where I was when I realized life was a game.
The more seriously I took things the harder the rules became.
I had no idea what it’d cost, my life past before my eyes.
I found out how little I accomplished all my plans denied.
So as you read this know my friends, I’d love to stay with you all
Please smile when you think of me, my body’s gone that’s all
If my heart were still alive, I know it would surely break.
And my memories left with you there’s nothing more to say.
Moving on is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard
You know the Dead feel no more pain,
And the living all are SCARRED!”

On a third page, Aaron wrote:

“I heard somebody fix today, there was no last goodbyes to say
His will to live ran out, I heard somebody turn to dust
Looking back at what I left, a list of plans and photographs
Songs that will never be sung these are the things I won’t get done
Just one shot to say goodbye, one last taste to mourn and cry
Scores and shoots
The lights go dim, just one shot to do him in.
He hangs his head and wonders why, why the monkey only lies
But pay the pauper, he did choose
He hung his head inside the noose

“Ive seen the man use the needle, seen the needle use the man
I’ve seen them crawl from the cradle to the coffin on their hands
They fight a war but its fatal, It’s so hard to understand
I’ve seen myself use the needle, seen the needle in my hand”

Aaron’s notes were undated and unaddressed. With all of the changes to the scene, it would have been impossible to tell whether he had committed suicide, suffered some kind of overdose, or died from complications related to his seizure disorder, or through some other chain of events. The toxicology report had indicated no illegal substances were in his system, but he had lain there alone comatose in his mother’s house for three days, time for some metabolization to take place.

Two days after the end of life support, Aaron’s mother told her story about the last time she had seen him alive, about how he was sick and feverish and she had left him alone with a sack of groceries in that deplorable, ugly house, with some Heavenly Father stories to keep him company. The following week, at his grave site, she spoke about how she didn’t think Aaron would live long enough to move to Hawaii, but reassured the gathering that she had made him aware that Heavenly Father loved him, and I am still reeling from these disclosures.

The medical examiner would be unable to determine a cause of death. His mother wanted no further inquiry, and she and her new deep-pocketed husband Ben Foulk hired a law firm to prevent my access to Aaron’s medical records.

Reading my son’s last writing is heartbreaking, and five and a half years have gone by since his death, time when I could not bring myself to write a word about this part of the story of my son’s last days.

Aaron and I were very much alike. These notes show that he had a talent for writing and a willingness to write about very personal issues, about pain itself, that he was unafraid to reveal himself in a world where many people live in closets.

His reference to scarring could have meant the physical scars on his arms, the self-inflicted knife wounds that he had carved into himself not long after he had been taken into concealment in Utah, but could also have referred to the emotional scars that he and his entire circle of friends shared, living their lives of rejection in that isolated Mormon enclave, or both. He could have become a writer.

Although his note was addressed to no one in particular, there are a lot of people who put Aaron in this place and kept him there. A well-understood principle of the consequences of a criminal act is that a person who commits that act is responsible for every harm subsequent to the original crime, which was the abduction of my four children and their forced immersion into Mormonism in Utah.

For that reason, I will name each of those persons known to have participated in the abduction, a continuing crime with permanent consequences. These names are all permanently attached to the cause of Aaron’s death:

Mormons with no relationship to my children by either blood or marriage: Chris and Kory Wright, Bishop David Holliday, Bishop Donald Taylor, and Relief Society President Evelyn Taylor.

Micheletti family members and relations: Gina and Ben Foulk, Tony and Connie Micheletti and Cindy Anderson, and former step dad #2 Steve Nielson, the man who slapped my children around in Payson, Utah.

Those that consider committing the crime of child abduction need to understand that the consequences of “taking, enticing, keeping or concealing” a child are permanent. If you join in the plan, you are responsible for all that follows, until the end of time.

If you plan to take a child from Oregon, Aaron’s Law is waiting for you now….

To be continued….

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 3: Aaron's Law: A very personal piece of legislation

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

We were standing near the top of the hill, where my son’s gravesite lay waiting, that sunny day in May, at a place called El Dorado Hills, California.

I had never seen this place before. It was a field of strangers. No friends or family relations were buried here, the cemetery itself no more than 12 years old. There were no connections here, no family traditions, no history here, he was alone here. It was his mother’s choice to bury him here, to park his body here alone. My son was about to be parked here in this place.

I listened dumbfounded as my son’s mother continued her tearless matter-of-fact story, speaking about Aaron, about how he was sick back there in Payson, Utah, seriously ill; about how she had hoped he would agree to move to Hawaii and live with his sister, that maybe living in Hawaii would be good for his health; “But,” she said, “I didn’t think he was going to make it.”

She didn’t think he was going to make it? Did she just say that she didn’t think he would live? Yes! I was stunned and sickened. Again. Only a few days earlier, she had described the last time she had seen Aaron alive, about how he was sick and feverish and how she had left him alone with a sack of groceries and some Heavenly Father stories so she could join her new Mormon husband—the fifth time is the charm they say—who was waiting impatiently across town to get back to his dental practice in—El Dorado Hills!

So they had left Aaron alone, sick and feverish, that part was clear, and we were here in El Dorado Hills because it was convenient, because it was a good place to park, but most of all we were here because Aaron had died from lack of medical care….

My son’s mother plainfaced told the gathering on this grassy knoll that she did not think Aaron would live to board a flight to Hawaii, he was acutely ill, he was desperately ill. She thought he might die before he got out of Payson, Utah, where she had left him behind, and she was telling us all about it.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and what was not said was that she had made no effort at all to get my son medical care, not in Utah where she had left him behind, and not in El Dorado Hills, where she was busy with her new life now, in El Dorado Hills where there was no room for Aaron, not while he was alive, just this patch of hillside….

Aaron had needed hospitalization, urgently, and this was no secret, he had been ill for years, suffering there isolated in that rat hole in the Mormon desert, where they had drained the life out of him rather than let him be happy and free to be with me, to be himself, that’s the real Mormon way….

“I didn’t think he was going to make it”, she said, and then she assured us all that she had seen that Aaron knew all about Heavenly Father before he died, she had done her job you see, shedding no tears, she was devout, and that’s what counts….

Gina had told me that her new white-haired husband number five Ben Foulk had a dental practice but that he was mostly retired, that he had sung with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which must have made him a real catch in Mormon country I suppose, and that his ex-wife was putting a lot of pressure on his wallet, and this was the general impression I had at the time, which turned out to be only a partly true story….

I was angry with her, could not understand why her husband had taken no interest in his new wife’s son, in obvious critical need of medical care, didn’t this man have a medical degree?

She did not want to get her new husband upset over Aaron, she told me, speak-his-own-mind unMormon non-Mormon Aaron. She had told me in the hospital that Ben Foulk wouldn’t have understood Aaron, would have been impatient with his drug history and she did not want to upset the great man, former singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir….

This explained why Aaron had received no invitation to travel to El Dorado Hills.

Years later, a couple of years ago, I learned about the string of senior care centers that Ben and Gina Foulk own and operate, offering skilled medical care to those in their tender years….

El Dorado Hills Senior Care Village

Oak Haven Senior Care Village

Oak Creek Senior Care

Oak Grove Senior Care

Oak Hill Senior Care

Oak Ridge Senior Care

"Located in beautiful El Dorado Hills, California"

  • 24-Hour Responsive, Compassionate Care
  • Fresh Healthy Home Cooked Meals
  • Private Rooms with Private Bathrooms
  • Enjoyable Social and Recreational Activities
  • Music, Arts, Crafts,  and Games
  • Assistance with Bathing, & Personal Hygiene
  • Medication Management & Assistance
  • Manicured Landscaping with Paved Walkways
  • Scheduled Transportation to Appointments
  • Personal Housekeeping and Laundry Services
  • On-Site Salon Services

“Please take time to visit us and see for yourself why El Dorado Hills Senior Care Villageis considered one of the best resident care facilities for the elderly in the El Dorado Hills area,” so the brochure reads….

She had hoped that someone else would take care of Aaron, someone besides herself, had hoped he would just get on that plane to Hawaii and be his sister’s problem. That’s the way she was, our children having spent their entire lives making the world happy for their mother, no relief from that burden once they were taken into concealment in Utah, not then, not since, not now. They are locked into the Mormon world, keeping the world safe for Mom, fighting against evil non-Mormons….

Aaron Cruz suffered a seizure and died in Payson Utah after having run out of his prescription meds, his anti-seizure meds, alone in his mother’s left-behind empty house. He had also probably been unable to get to the methadone clinic a dozen miles away in Orem, adding to his suffering. His mother grabbed all of Aaron’s medical records, where they remain concealed behind a wall of Foulk lawyers.

I was back at my desk in the Oregon Senate Monday morning following the burial, where I led the workgroup on Senator Gordly’s landmark child abduction bill, SB 1041.

Senate Bill 1041 had its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 25, National Missing Children’s Day, where I testified on the abduction of my children and the death of my son.

Senate Bill 1041, creating a new path to prevent and resolve child abductions through a civil process outside of both the family law and criminal law systems that routinely fail to protect children from non-stranger abductions, would require ten major rewrites and would benefit from the near-record length of the 2005 legislative session, would need every hour of that time. No other state in the US has a law like this….

On August 1, 2005, the Oregon Senate passed SB 1041 on a 26-3 vote, the same day that I received the Utah Medical Examiner’s report on Aaron’s death, from “undetermined” causes. It was waiting in the mail for me when I got home that night. The report identified my son as “white.” That would need correction.

Passing the Senate was an important step but we were only just arriving at the legislative halfway point, and it had taken months to get here. SB 1041 would yet have to get through the entire House process, and the end of the 2005 session could come at any time. We were entering the session’s final week. There were only a handful of bills still alive in the building, and I held no realistic hope that the bill would see the House floor this biennium.

The following evening, however, as Senator Gordly and I prepared to leave the building, we received a call from staff that the House State and Federal Affairs Committee would hear SB 1041 in just 15 minutes. Another two minutes and we would have missed the call and the hearing. We put our briefcases down and walked across the Capitol building to testify.

Representative Linda Flores, a member of the HSFA Committee, took a particular interest in the bill as the hearing unfolded, disclosing that her grandchild had disappeared into Mexico in a parental abduction and had been missing for a year. Her support was crucial, and the bill was voted out of Committee with a “do pass” recommendation.

After the hearing, we first started referring to SB 1041 as Aaron’s Law. It was a very personal piece of legislation. But the session was coming to an end and time had run out….

The next morning, on August 3, in a stunning surprise, Senator Gordly and I arrived at the Capitol to learn that SB 1041 was scheduled for the House floor. Carried by Representative Flores, the Oregon House passed SB 1041, now called “Aaron’s Law”, named for my son Aaron Cruz, on a dramatic unanimous end-of session vote, 59-0 with one member absent.

I stood in the side aisle and received the congratulations of many of the House members. It was a good day for justice, for children at risk of parental and family abduction, although the legislation did not cover children who had already been kidnapped, like my own.

The legislature adjourned the following day.

To be continued….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz.

The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abduction or who otherwise participated materially in the crime, “enticing, taking or keeping” a child in violation of felony Custodial Interference I.

The civil process requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence” instead of the much stricter “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement for conviction in criminal court.

Local law enforcement agencies rarely invest the time and resources required to reach the higher evidentiary standard in parental and family abduction cases, and there the investigations usually end, opening the door for the kidnappings to take place, for the actors to escape justice.

This fact applies in every state in the US, where each year more than 12,000 parental and family abductions lasting longer than six months take place, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

The system itself enables the abductions.

Aaron’s Law anticipates that defendants will lawyer up and that their lawyers will use every legal means to protect their clients, to buy time, to keep justice at bay for as long as the system permits, which is indefinitely, as the Kyron Horman kidnapping currently getting some national attention demonstrates fairly conclusively.

I had to fight against a dozen lawyers in three states, mostly representing myself, year after year, losing every time, as the lawyers won delay after delay, buying long stretches of time for my children’s abductors, despite an Order for Joint Custody that had been in effect for five years at the time my children vanished.

Aaron’s Law provides for the appointment of mental health and legal professionals to protect the abducted child and authorizes the judge to assign the costs to the party or parties who are the cause of the problem.

Aaron’s Law takes the additional step of authorizing the judge to order the parties into counseling sessions directed at educating the parties to the harm that their conduct is causing the children, at their own expense.

These provisions are designed to address the real-life consequences of parental and family abductions and to deter the parties from carrying out the kidnapping in the first place.

Had Aaron’s Law been on the books in 1995, the Cruz family abduction would not have taken place and Aaron would be alive today. The Mormon non-family members, the Mormon Bishops and other officials who participated in the abduction would not have risked the consequences of Aaron’s Law.

Chris and Kory Wright, Bishop David Holliday, Bishop Donald Taylor and Relief Society President Evelyn Taylor would have all been subject to Aaron’s Law, all ordered financially liable for the damages, all subjected to the public humiliation of counseling directed at educating them to the harm their Mormon absolutism was causing my children and my family.

Aaron’s Law would have been a significant deterrent.

Once the Cruz kidnapping had begun, however, there was no way for them to end it without consequence, and my children’s conversion to Mormonism became their most important line of defense. I would never see my children again except under circumstances under Mormon control. They would never leave Utah except under Mormon supervision.

Aaron was too independent-minded to buy into their force-fed Mormonism, too much like his father, and they made him pay for that in Utah, where his despair became so complete that he began slicing up his arms with a knife at the age of fifteen.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide, that it might help reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero. More than 12,000 of those abductions last longer than six months, with lifelong consequences for all of the victims.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 currently appears on the Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse website, five years after its passage.

There is much work yet to be done on this issue.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oregon's Museum of Missing Children and the child sex trade

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

You are probably not aware that the Oregon State Police maintains a Museum of Missing Children.

Created in 1989, it maintains such a low profile that I did not learn it existed until the summer of 2004, eight long years after my four children had disappeared from Oregon, on their way to concealment in a series of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah.

I discovered the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse website while preparing my testimony for the Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, which held four meetings that year.

It was a shocking discovery, my first clue to the fact that no Oregon law enforcement agency maintains a list of missing or abducted children, not then and not now (see “Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities” for further discussion).

One would think that the OSP Missing Children Clearinghouse would have such a list, collected from and shared with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, but that is far from the case.

The site contains a scant 41 names. Some have been missing for decades. The only name added in the past three years is Kyron Horman, last seen in the company of his stepmom, Terri Horman, in June.

Yet Portland has been making the national news recently for its prominence in the child sex trade trafficking business.

In September, Sharyn Alfonsi reported on ABC World News:

“Though Portland, Oregon is considered one of the most livable cities in the U.S., it also has a reputation as the national hub for child sex trafficking.

“In today's Conversation, ABC's Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi talked about Alfonsi's trip to Portland and why middle-class children are getting recruited in a city with the largest legal commercial sex trade (per capita) in the U.S.

“Alfonsi visited the 82nd Avenue strip, also known as "The Track," where there are more than 100 massage parlors and strip clubs. She interviewed child victims their parents and even the pimps.”

These reports are clearly at odds with the OSP list. It is not known what set of circumstances would cause a missing or abducted child’s name to appear on the OSP website, but it would begin with a report from local law enforcement.

Most of the photographs of the 41 missing children on the OSP website appear to be school pictures, and there is a nostalgic sense of looking at old yearbooks, at moments frozen in time, as one gazes at these faces, all but one, Kyron Horman, completely forgotten by all but the once-child’s surviving family members.

There is no cold case squad for missing or abducted children; for most, there isn’t even a warm case squad. If they are still alive, most of these faces belong to adults now, and one can be sure that law enforcement isn’t looking for children-now-adults.

These are photos for a museum, with little effective purpose other than to underscore the fact that abductions are forever, that these are continuing crimes, crimes without end, regardless of the ages of the victims.

To be sure, the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse suffers from inadequate funding, a condition made permanent by the voters themselves when they amended the Constitution in the 1980’s to shift funding from the State Highway Fund to the General Fund, and then made a habit of continually underfunding the agency, biennium after biennium.

Efforts to recover Oregon’s missing and abducted children and to make a dent in the child sex trade that is currently flourishing here are surely hampered by the failure to prioritize the children, a fault shared by state and local law enforcement agencies and by successive legislatures.

The most recent OSP Annual Performance Progress Report posted on the agency website makes no mention of missing children, nor does its proposed Key Performance Measures for the 2009-2011 biennium.

The OSP and the Department of Justice assured the Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions in 2004 that they would implement a rule requiring that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

They never implemented the rule, making this a good time to remind the Oregon legislature and law enforcement agencies around the state, as they plan for the coming 2011 budgeting bloodbath, of the mission of the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse:

“The mission of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to receive and distribute information on missing children to local law enforcement agencies, school districts, state and federal agencies, and the public.  In 1989,the Oregon legislature mandated that OSP establish and maintain a missing children clearinghouse.

“The goal of the Missing Children Clearinghouse is to streamline the system, serving child victims and their families by providing assistance to law enforcement agencies and the public.”

Lest they continue to be forgotten, the names of Oregon’s 41 missing children:

The earliest name on the list is Brian page, missing since 1975

Christi Farni and Edward Nye comprise the Class of 1978

Jerry Johnson has been missing since 1982.

Joan Hall vanished in 1983

William Gunn disappeared in 1984

Jeremy Bright and Duane Fochtman have been missing since 1986

Walter Ackerson, Kacey Perry and Rachanda Pickle, Class of 1990

Thomas Gibson made the list in 1991

Ashlyn Wilson vanished in 1995

Annalycia Cruz was an infant weighing 14 pounds when she disappeared in 1996

Aryssa Torabi and Derrick Engebretson, Class of 1998

Five children disappeared in 2001: Shausha Henson, Yuliana Escudero, Kami Vollendroff, Eugene Hyatt and Shaina Kirkpatrick

Carlos Cortez-Leon vanished in 2002

Five more children disappeared in 2004: Karla Coronado, Miriam Cruz-Torres, Schnee Bedford, and siblings Takoda and Tiana Weed

Narcisa Bernadino has been missing since 2005

Five children made the list in 2006: Samuel Boehlke, Nieves Izquierdo-Olea, Esmerelda Salazar-Penaloza, Luis Adrian-Olea, and Yeni Fuentes-Garcia

Seven children vanished in 2007: Jesus Marina-Mendoza, Keely Gigoux, Maria Hidalgo, sisters Savanah and Sierra Ontiveros, Jamie Wiedeman and Jacob Thorpe

According to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, no Oregon children were reported missing in 2008, 2009 or 2010, until Kyron Horman was abducted in June 2010.

Tell that to Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi….


Sean Cruz led the workgroup on Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping statute Senate Bill 1041 “Aaron’s Law”, named for his late son Aaron Cruz. The provisions of the bill resulted in large part from the multiple failures of both the family law and criminal law systems in the wake of the abduction of his four children.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly and passed on a dramatic end-of-session unanimous House vote in 2005.

With Aaron’s Law, Oregon is the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action.

Under Aaron’s Law, any victim can hold his or her abductor(s) financially accountable in civil court, including those who provided logistical, financial or planning support to the abductor(s) or who otherwise participated materially in the crime.

Sean hopes to see the provisions of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide and reduce the number of parental and family abductions from its rate of more than 200,000 child victims a year to zero.

He also believes that Aaron’s Law provides the legal means for victims of child sex trafficking to hold their pimps and other abusers financially accountable for their crimes, having violated the Custodial Interference I statute.

No information about Senate Bill 1041 appears on the OSP website.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Abducted child vs stolen car: A problem of priorities

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

“Guns drawn, everyone out and down on the ground!”

That’s how the officer described what would happen if the police encountered whoever was driving my freshly-stolen car, just last week.

He wanted me to know this because, although finding the car myself would be extremely unlikely, it does happen, and if I did happen to find it, I should report that fact before driving it anywhere, because I could also find myself facing an abrupt out-of-the-car-and-down-on-the-ground-at-gunpoint situation, and however unlikely that might be, it would be good advice to keep in mind.

Less than two hours after I had reported it stolen, information about my recently-departed red Subaru was already in the Law Enforcement Database and police agencies had been alerted from the Canadian border down to Mexico, and from the Oregon coast eastward to the Mississippi River.

As I listened to the officer, I reflected back nearly fifteen years ago, when I had reported the disappearance of my four children to local law enforcement, taken in what I would learn was a Mormon abduction as much as it was a parental and family abduction, and how differently law enforcement handled the case.

The bottom-line point I want to make here is that while Oregon law enforcement agencies maintain and share lists of stolen vehicles, there is no comparable list of abducted children anywhere throughout the state.

This dichotomy exposes one of the major gaps that abducted children fall through, particularly if the suspected kidnapper is a parent or family member.

The structural problem lies in the fact that local law enforcement agencies handle each case of abducted or missing children in their own way, with little or no sharing of information with other agencies or with the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

The OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse has added only one new name to its short list in the past three years.

The Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions became aware of the problem in 2004 and considered legislation to correct it, but was dissuaded as reported to the Senate President:

“The Task Force considered legislation that would have required that all local law enforcement agencies report missing children to the Oregon State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.

“However, after the State Police and the Department of Justice met and discussed the issue, they determined that the State Police could obtain this information by an administrative process that will automatically notify the Missing Children’s Clearinghouse of all reports of missing children made by state, county and local law enforcement agencies. Consequently, the Task Force decided that this legislation is not needed.” –Final Report, Senate Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions, 2004.

It is important to understand what is being stated here:

1. The Task Force wanted to require that all Oregon local law enforcement agencies report all cases of missing or abducted children to the OSP Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, because they were not doing so on their own.

2. The OSP stated that they could get the information from local law enforcement by administrative rule, convincing the Task Force not to press legislation.

3. The OSP never implemented the rule, which would have created a list of all cases of abducted or missing children reported in Oregon.

The Task Force determined that Oregon has its per capita share of the more than 200,000 cases of parental and family abductions that take place in the USA each year, yet the Oregon State Police has added only one name, that of Kyron Horman, to its Missing Children’s Clearinghouse list in the past three years.

A few months ago, a father from southern Oregon whose 3-year-old daughter went missing with the child’s mother in July contacted me. Local law enforcement had told him that his missing child did not “meet the criteria” for any actual action by law enforcement, including adding his missing child to the State Police list of missing Oregon children, or notifying law enforcement in other jurisdictions of the missing child…and yet there was a child missing….

The phrase “does not meet the criteria” struck me when I took the call, because I was already planning to write about the subject, which came up during a press conference on the Kyron Horman abduction on July 23, when Sheriff Dan Staton
responded to a series of questions, including this one:

Q: How many other children are considered missing/endangered in Multnomah County at this time, aside from Kyron? 

There are no other cases that meet this criteria,” he said.

“This criteria” may have included the fact that one of Kyron’s close family members is a police detective, giving the family instant credibility with law enforcement.

Coupled with the fact that Kyron’s disappearance was originally thought to be a stranger abduction (since no one else was missing), the family’s call to 911 quickly led to the largest search for a missing child in the history of the state.

The OSP could hardly ignore that.

The Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse maintains a list of abducted or otherwise missing children, which stands currently at 41 children.

More than half of these children have been missing for decades, and the only child that has “met the criteria” to make the OSP list in the past three years is Kyron Horman….

The US Department of Justice has reported no decrease in the number of abducted children, tallied at more than 200,000 annually for more than a dozen years, signaling that not enough is being done to address the problem.

People abduct their own children or other family members in large part because they are likely to get away with it, to suffer no consequences for their part in the crime, partially explaining why the number is so high.

The failure of law enforcement to utilize the same technological resources that enable them to instantly notify agencies across every jurisdictional level or locale about my stolen Subaru, to reach the same agencies with reports of abducted or missing children is difficult enough to understand.

The Task Force report documents the fact that OSP and the Department of Justice became aware of both the problem and the solution through the course of the Task Force’s work, and yet have done nothing to correct it.

We all live complicated lives. Imagine for a moment how complicated your life would be if your child was abducted, and you found out that your child’s’ name wasn’t on the list, because there was no list.

It is not a question of knowledge or awareness; the Task Force report and the OSP’s addition of just a single name in the past three years indicates that this is a problem of policy, a problem of priorities, a matter of choosing to value stolen property over stolen lives.

--Sean Cruz, November 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kyron Horman, the List of Abducted Children and "Meeting the Criteria", part 1

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Every now and then a child is abducted somewhere in Oregon, and some weeks or months later, I receive a phone call from the child’s parent….

Their story is always the same: It has been weeks or months since they last knew the location of their child…the child disappeared with the other parent, who has fled the state…they’ve been to the police…they’ve been to the courts…they cannot find anyone in the system who is willing to help…the media doesn’t see a reason to get involved…and yet their child is still missing….

They contact me because they have been searching for help on line, and their search has led them to Aaron’s Law, Oregon’s landmark 2005 anti-kidnapping statute, named for my late son Aaron Cruz, and to my blogs, and they’ve read about the law, and they are calling me because they are desperate for advice….

Most don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, much less the resources to hire a private investigator to go out and find their abducted child, and they are mostly men, men who are trying to keep their lives steady while facing the reality, the horror, that they may never see their child again….

Some, like the most recent case, a father who called me a week ago from southern Oregon whose 3-year-old daughter went missing in July, have been told by local law enforcement that their missing child does not “meet the criteria” for any actual action by law enforcement, including adding their missing child to the State Police list of missing Oregon children, or notifying law enforcement in other jurisdictions of the missing child…and yet there is a child who is missing….

The phrase “does not meet the criteria” struck me when I took the call, because I was already planning to write about the subject, which came up during a press conference on the Kyron Horman abduction on July 23, when Washington County Sheriff Dan Staton responded to a series of question, including this one:

Q: How many other children are considered missing/endangered in Multnomah County at this time, aside from Kyron?

There are no other cases that meet this criteria,” he said.

The Oregon State Police Missing Children Clearinghouse maintains a list of abducted or otherwise missing children, which stands currently at 41 children.

More than half of these children have been missing for decades, and the only child that has “met the criteria” to make the list in the past three years is Kyron Horman….

The Oregon State Police website has a “spotlight” featuring five of these missing children, with Kyron’s name at the top of the list:

Samuel Boehlke has been missing for just over four years.

Jeremy Bright has been missing since 1986.

Karla Coronado has been missing for more than six years.

Carlos Cortez-Leon has been missing for eight years and two weeks.

At the bottom of the Spotlight feature is a link labeled “Click here to see all of Oregon’s missing children” that takes you to the page where 41 children are identified, where 40 of those children are the same children, year after year, where the Oregon State Police declares that these are all of the missing children, there are none other to be worried about….

But that list does not come close to identifying “all” of Oregon’s missing children, and it never has…it contains only the names of those children who have “met the criteria”….

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a list of missing Oregon children, but it is a different list....

At the same time, law enforcement is aware that Oregon has its proportional share of parentally and family-abducted children, a number that the US Department of Justice calculates at more than 200,000 children a year, nationwide; you can do the math….

The fact is that no one has a list of all of Oregon’s missing and abducted children, no one…. No law enforcement agency in the state is required to keep or maintain a list, and so no list of missing children exists….

Only the list that “meets the criteria”….

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz, pt 2: "Dad, I will never be well."

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

2. “Dad, I will never be well.”

My son spoke these words to me, a thick vein of despair in his voice, and I felt at once a heartburst of pain for him, for all those years that had been stolen from him, those last years of adolescence, those years in which he was forced to become a man without his dad to guide him, those years he had been held in remote Mormon enclaves in theocratic Utah, those years he had suffered through the emotional chaos of dealing with his mother’s life, her boyfriends plus three step dads, including the step dad who often slapped my children around their house in Payson, Utah, a heavy-set angry bastard named Steve Nielsen….

Aaron said these words to me in the early fall of 2003 just a few weeks after I had recovered him from the abduction, the only one of my four children that I was able to recover, and he was filling me in, telling me about how the damage came about, that look in his eyes telling me how severe his suffering had been during those years….

“Dad”, he said, “I didn’t want to tell you over the phone”, he said, “I wanted to see you in person and tell you myself,” he said; that’s the kind of young man Aaron was, an honorable son, his best years already gone forever….

“Dad, I will never be well!” he declared. I had just gotten him enrolled into the Oregon Health Plan. You had to be very sick to gain entry in 2003, and Aaron was more than overqualified for emergency acute care, with eight years’ worth of experience as the victim of a kidnapping…and in my heart, I knew he was telling me the straight-out truth, his opportunity to live a normal life, the life that I had dreamed of sharing with him, had been taken forever; now we were going to need a lot of medical help to find out what was left, what we could hope for….

Aaron was talking about more than the physical damage, he was talking about the emotional damage that he suffered during his years of 100% forced Mormon immersion….

In all the years that had passed since my four children disappeared into the exclusive control of his mother and her Mormon friends, I was able to gain access to only one medical report, that for Aaron, and nothing at all for my other three kidnapped children, despite an Order for Joint Custody….

The one report that I had seen was the documentation for Aaron’s admission “on an emergency basis” into a psychiatric ward in Provo, Utah, dated December 18, 1997, four months short of his 16th birthday. It was a miracle that I had been able to obtain this document….

The report described my son: “He is tall and thin…He has a slightly dark facial complexion…He looks sad…His mood is depressed and affect is sad. He speaks with a soft, slow voice. He reports a number of symptoms of depression including suicidal ideation and self injury...The patient’s insight judgment and impulse control is impaired as evidenced by wanting to resolve his problems with suicide and cutting himself…he has numerous large scars on both arms. He reports that when he cuts himself he feels relieved from internal pain. He cuts himself with a knife….”

I did not actually see those scars until Aaron was laying there comatose in Payson, Utah; he was sensitive about his arms and always wore long-sleeve shirts, plenty of time to count them during those five days and nights he lay motionless and unresponsive, to see the way they crisscrossed both upper arms, left and right, scars across scars…no needle marks on those arms, but lots of long scars, four inches long or more, wide scars, I hadn’t realized that a knife’s edge could create a scar so wide until I saw them on my son’s comatose arms….

I wondered how long he was cutting himself, at the tender age of fifteen, his despair so complete, how soon after his disappearance into Utah did the cutting begin, the report described multiple scars but provided no information as to when the self-mutilation began and how long it continued, and absolutely everyone concealed this information from me, most especially his mother and whoever she happened to be married to or otherwise involved with at the time or at any time thereafter….

Now, a few days after Aaron had been pronounced dead, his mother was telling this memorial gathering her story about the last time she had seen Aaron alive, about how he was sick and feverish and at risk of slipping into a coma, about how she had left him without meds but with a sack of groceries, her new husband Ben Foulk waiting impatiently across town, and she in a hurry to get back to California to her newly affluent life, co-owner of a string of high end retirement homes in El Dorado Hills, the new Mr. and Mrs. Ben and Gina Foulk, grumpy Ben, deep-pocketed Ben Foulk, waiting impatiently across town….

Gina had also left Aaron behind during his emergency psychiatric hospitalization, had gone on vacation out of state, leaving my 15-year old son to spend that  Christmas in the psychiatric ward in Provo Utah with the other patients, while she took a Christmas holiday in Oregon and Washington, including a couple of shopping runs at Lloyd Center….

The report quoted my son at the time he was admitted: “I am very depressed. I want to die. I want to commit suicide. I cut on myself.”

As soon as I learned he was in the hospital, I was able to reach Aaron by phone and we talked about our love for each other. Then he was abruptly released into the custody of step dad Steve Nielsen, the man who slapped my children around throughout their marriage, and I lost contact with my son, the hospital refusing to provide any additional information, this is Utah after all, and his mother Gina Nielsen refusing to provide any further information about my son, where he was or where Steve Nielsen was holding him…years would pass before I would learn anything more….

“Dad, I will never be well”, he said….

To be continued….

Part 3 is coming soon....

Monday, September 13, 2010

The last days of Aaron Cruz: A mother's love and a sack of groceries

By Sean Cruz

My son’s mother Gina Foulk told the story herself, in words that shock and sadden me even more today than they did at the time of Aaron’s death, more than five years ago….

Speaking before a group of perhaps fifty people in Payson, Utah, gathered together in memory of my son a week after he had been found comatose and unresponsive in her empty house a short distance away, she described the last time that she had seen Aaron alive, and her incomprehensible actions….

He was sick and feverish, she said, and she had left him alone….

He was out of his meds, and she had left him alone, in an empty house cluttered with Aaron’s empty prescription bottles strewn all over, with a sack of groceries and a crazy story….

She had left him alone, sick and feverish, without health care, without a call to a doctor, without refilling his prescriptions, the ones that were keeping him from suffering the very coma in which he died, without driving him to the hospital, without picking up the phone to alert anyone else to look after her son, she had left him alone, and was telling us all about it, without shedding a single tear….

She had told Aaron that Heavenly Father loved him, she said, lying there beside her sick and feverish son, she said, and here are some groceries for you, honey…and then she left him alone….

Aaron was sick and feverish she said, and what she did not say was that her new Mormon husband Ben Foulk was waiting across town, impatient to get back to California, where he owns a string of high-end medical-care-dispensing retirement homes (“Would you like some more cranberry juice with your pills, Mrs Treatednicely?”), and she was in a hurry to get out on the road, no time for doctors….

If she had driven him to the emergency room that night, the staff would have admitted him immediately, put him on IVs, and some medical people would have been working with real concern, realizing as they went along, working to save this young man’s life, that there is more to this story than meets the eye, this young man should have been hospitalized weeks ago, months ago….

The fact is that Aaron had been sick and feverish for a good long time; this part of his mother’s story was not news; In fact, just about everyone in that room listening to Gina Foulk’s story had known Aaron was sick, my son was visibly ill and everyone knew it, and yet no one had stepped up to get him seen by a doctor, not even Mr. and Mrs. Ben and Gina Foulk.

There’s another way to tell the story of the last days of Aaron Cruz: I had gone broke keeping Aaron alive that year, and when I ran out of money to pay for his anti-seizure and other meds, after I had spent my very last dollar, he convulsed and died, sick and alone, in that empty house, out of his meds…with his mother’s last sack of groceries….

Now I was standing here in this other house in Payson, Utah, listening to my son’s mother tell her story, having traveled here on money I had borrowed from friends, having had just gone broke trying to keep my son alive, having just spent five days and nights at his side at the hospital, to the end of life support, I am listening to a story about a sack of groceries and Heavenly Father….

My son’s mother told the gathering matter-of-factly that Aaron was sick and feverish, and she described how she had lain beside him and comforted him with stories about how much Heavenly Father loves him…and here’s a sack of groceries for you, honey, she said…but Ben Foulk was waiting impatiently across town, pills to dispense in Northern California, gold in them thar El Dorado Hills….

She said nothing at all about his meds, no mention at all in her meandering, incomprehensible story about the empty pill bottles that would have been scattered all over the house, Paxil in gigantic doses, the anti-seizure meds that were the key to keeping him out of a coma, no telling what else, since she grabbed and destroyed all of my son Aaron Cruz’s medical records, no telling at all, Ben and Gina Foulk’s lawyers have built an impenetrable wall behind which my son’s medical records are concealed….

Gina Foulk told this crazy matter-of-fact tearless story about how she left Aaron alone that night and turned the page; “I told him all about Heavenly Father”, she reassured this Mormon gathering, and no one said a word….

And her story would get crazier still when she told it a few days later on the day we laid my son Aaron Cruz into the earth in El Dorado Hills, California, where the Ben and Gina Foulks own a string of high-end retirement homes, providing high-end medical care to their well-heeled clients…and for you, Aaron, a sack of groceries and some Mormon stories to keep you company; now, here’s a nice piece of stone on a hillside, enjoy the birds….

To be continued….

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stolen Voices, the movie, pt 2: the sixth victim: Mom

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon-- I was my mother's sole caregiver at the time my children were taken into concealment in Utah, had been so for a year.

My mother's voice on this tape, with its references to my birthday and the death of Richard Nixon, dates the series of messages to May 1994, about 8 months before she came to live with my children and me.

My mother, whose name was Olive Cruz, died four years after her grandchildren disappeared without seeing them again, without hearing their voices again, without an iota of respect or caring from her former daughter in law.

For my mother, there were no birthday cards, no phone calls, no Mother's Day or other holiday recognition. For her, now that the children were totally in Mormon hands, there was nothing, all the way to the end of her life.

My mother had suffered with poor health her entire adult life. My earliest memories of my mother are of visiting her in the hospital, of standing in the ivy outside her room, waiting for my turn for Dad to lift either my brother or me up to the window so we could see her. In those days, children were not allowed in hospital wards. We could only smile at each other through the window. I remember the window, in my father's arms, and the ivy, waiting for my turn.

As the years went by, there were many visits to the windows, to the ivy.

She had ulcers on both her ankles that never healed over decades of treatment, and some years the broad arc of our family story during my childhood was about her battles with gangrene, worry over whether the doctors would amputate her right leg or her left. She would never give permission for the amputation, not to her dying day, choosing to live with the pain and the poison instead.

She was widowed in 1975, following my father's final, fatal heart attack.

By 1990, her multiple illnesses kept her housebound. Osteoporosis caused the vertebrae in her neck to collapse, so that she could only raise her head off her chest by pulling it up with both hands.

Her health became so fragile by 1994 that moving her long distances by car was impossible. She would either have to be flown in short flights as a passenger with special needs, or travel by ambulance with skilled care.

I became my mother's sole caregiver in the spring of 1995. We had a three-generational household, my mom, my kids and I, living in Washington County not far from where Gina's third marriage, to my children's first step day, was coming apart.

During that time we had together in 1995, before my children disappeared, my mother hospital was hospitalized twice, for emergency surgery, for tachycardia. For weeks at a time she needed daily physical therapy session, always on the verge of re-hospitalization, and multiple doctor's visits for wounds that would not heal.

The doctors continued to urge her to allow them to amputate, but she never gave permission, stating that she wanted to be buried with all of her parts intact.

Housebound, the only company she had that year was with her grandchildren and me, and Gina and her Mormon friends took all of that away. With the kids gone, my mom was doomed to long hours alone, every day, every moment that I was away from the house.

That was fine with Gina and her Mormon friends. She and they had other priorities, and my mother was just so much collateral damage. Our four children were collateral damage to be sure, but their main purpose to Gina was to be used as weapons, and to provide cover for her Mormon friends. They were only too happy to oblige...Chris and Kory Wright, Evelyn Taylor, David Holliday and the others....

There would be no price to high for my children to pay once they arrived in Utah, at the home of Chris and Kory Wright.

Within four months of her divorce from Step Dad #1 in Oregon, Gina was married to Step Dad #2 in Utah. No price too high....

Step Dad #2, Steve Nielson, would slap my children around for the next two years or so, and Gina would allow him to get away with it. No price too high....

Utah Child Protective Services, in practice a working arm of the Mormon Church, would allow him to get away with it also. That's how things are done in Utah. No price too high....

I wrote 37 letters to Angela Adams, the Guardian ad Litem that Utah CPS appointed to look after my abducted children, begging her to help arrange contact between my children and their grandmother, but she ignored all of that, as she ignored every other indicator that something was wrong here.

My mother spent the last two years of her life in a hospital bed.

She is buried next to my father in a cemetery in Fairfield, California, where the tombstone reads"

"sunshine fresh flowers green grass
together at last"

To the best of my knowledge, her grandchildren have never visited her grave.

And the Mormon Church proclaims: "Families are tee da...Families are forever...."

Here's the link to Stolen Voices, the movie, pt 2: the sixth victim: Mom

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stolen voices, the movie, pt 1: Before the abduction, we were a family for forever

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--I loved the sound of my children's voices so much that I saved the messages that they left for me on my answering machine. About a year and a half after my kids left these messages, they disappeared into Utah.

This is the first part in a series of movies I am producing to document the lives of my children before their abduction.

I'm limited to the photos, videos and audio recordings that I had before they disappeared. The last year that I saw a school photo of any of my children was 1995.

The people who abducted my children and concealed them in Utah did everything they could to destroy every emotional link between my children and I.

That is typically what happens in parental and family abductions. The emotional abuse led to long years of isolation and suffering and ultimately to the death of my son Aaron Cruz.

My children's abductors claimed that my children didn't love me and that there was no emotional bond between us. You can hear the love in their voices and as a parent you can gauge for yourself how damaging this experience was--and is--for them.

My children were taken in a Mormon shunning that continues to this very day. My former wife joined the Mormon church about six years into our marriage and became a 100% zealot nearly overnight. Nothing else mattered to her.

The shunning began after I left her church, was taken to the point where my children vanished in a kidnapping organized by Mormons in three states: Oregon, Washington and Utah.

My children were isolated in remote Mormon enclaves and forced to renounce me, my family and the lives you hear on the tape.

Aaron died a needless, preventable death. All he needed was decent medical care, some love without strings attached, and permission to not be forced into Mormonism like my other children were. Aaron resisted the pressure and suffered the most damage.

I should say that Aaron was the most visibly damaged, because I have little information to gauge the damage that my other children suffered.

The innocent children whose voices you hear suffered the loss of their father, were not permitted to mourn the loss, and were forced to adopt whatever stories were invented to suit the needs of the Mormons who helped their mother get away with a kidnapping.

This group of Mormon criminals included Chris and Kory Wright, David Holliday, Evelyn Taylor, Cindy Anderson, Tony and Connie Micheletti, and Steve Nielson, who as my children's second step dad slapped them around throughout his marriage to my ex-wife, who now goes by the name Gina Foulk.

Under the accords of the Geneva Convention, that behavior would be classified as torture.

I've written extensively about the abduction of my children, of the Cruz family. I've testified before Senate and House Committees and before the 2004 Interim Task Force on Parental and Family Abductions. I led Senator Avel Gordly's workgroup on parental and family abductions and saw Senate Bill 1041 "Aaron's Law", named for my beautiful boy who died in Utah in 2005, passed into law.

I hope to see Aaron's Law enacted nationwide.

Here's the link to Stolen Voices, pt 1:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Parental Abduction Wisdom, pt 10: A Deliberate, Particular Cruelty

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

Abducting a child is an act of deliberate cruelty, and it is an act of particular cruelty in cases where the child is abducted by a parent, by any of the child’s family members, or by persons known to the child or the child’s family.

Stranger abductions are in a category all their own, as there is no expectation that the stranger will feel any sense of empathy for the suffering child, and that the act will be merciless is a foregone conclusion. A stranger abduction nearly always leads directly to the torture and murder of the child. The cruelty is both deliberate and expected.

Parental and family abductions, and those that involve other persons known to the victims, however, are crimes that are both deliberate and particularly cruel, because the perpetrators possess certain knowledge that they going to cause the child to suffer the loss of a parent, and they very deliberately cause that harm to take place.

Abducted children will be told--and often convinced, because the kidnappers control all access to the child--that a beloved parent is dead, or no longer loves them, and they willingly put the child through that suffering.

Their cruelty is both deliberate and particular. They know that the child is suffering a great tragedy and they know that they are its cause. Yet they will profess that they love the abducted child.

In the case of the abduction of the four Cruz children, for example, their abductors deliberately and knowingly caused the children to suffer the loss of their father.

While every abduction has its own causes and effects, some common motivators are rage, jealousy, and religious fervor. All of these factors were present in the abduction of my four children, none more important than religious fervor.

After our divorce, an Order for Joint Custody protected my children and made their lives orderly and secure for five years.

Then, abruptly, more than 14 years ago, while being divorced by her third husband, my former wife disappeared with our four children, taking them on a hellish journey to a series of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah, beginning with the home of Mormon zealots Chris and Kory Wright, and on through a gauntlet of three Mormon stepdads in three states. A deliberate, particular cruelty.

Gina Micheletti...Gina Cruz...Gina Micheletti...Gina Frischknecht...Gina Micheletti...Gina Nielson...Gina Micheletti...Gina Foulk (now living in El Dorado Hills, California)....

Despite the Order for Joint Custody, once they disappeared into theocratic Utah, I never saw so much as a school picture of any of my children ever again.

If they do exist, those photographs would show children putting on brave faces to please those who now controlled their lives, but in their eyes and half smiles you would see terrible, completely needless suffering....

Parents and family members who abduct children generally don’t want to murder the child, but they do want to murder the child’s relationship with and memory of the parent they are intending to kill.

It is a deliberate, particular cruelty....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fourteen years after four children vanish from Oregon--someone notices!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Fourteen years after my four children vanished from Oregon, and five years after the death of my son, Aaron Cruz, and the passage of Oregon’s landmark anti-kidnapping Senate Bill 1041, Aaron’s Law, named in his honor, the abduction of 7-year-old Kyron Horman has stirred up some media interest in the issue of children abducted by family members and persons known to the victims.

Radio host Diane Dennis made the Aarons Law media breakthrough on the topic when she interviewed me yesterday, July 31, 2010 on her Family Focus 101 program on KUIK 1360 AM. The link to the interview is below.

Diane, you are the first to take an interest! Thank you!

Later on the same day, one of the Portland TV stations broke the news (!) that, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 2,000 US children are reported missing every day! That may be news to a lot of people, but not to those of us who have suffered the disappearance of a child, or to the child victims themselves, who grow in number every day.

The National Center and the US Department of Justice has put the figure of children abducted by their own parents, family members or persons known to the victims at more than 200,000 a year, every year, for more than a decade now.

Either way, it adds up to a lot of traumatized and seriously abused children, like my own, whose kidnapping was first reported after they vanished without a trace on February 12, 1996.

The fact is that, in sheer numbers, the most dangerous kidnappers are a child’s own parents, and this is news only if you haven’t been paying attention to the issue.

Parental and family abductions can be divided into two categories: those involving a single perpetrator, and those that involve two or more perpetrators, acting together to carry out a criminal act and any subsequent criminal acts.

Aarons Law makes Oregon the only state in the nation where abducting a child creates a civil cause of action. This means, in layman’s terms, that only in Oregon can you hold a person financially accountable for abducting your child.

Practically speaking, if the whereabouts of your child and the child’s kidnapper(s) is unknown, there’s little that you can do but pray that local law enforcement doesn’t give up (they usually don’t even get started).

If you become aware, however, that the kidnapper(s) had help, had associates, had others providing logistical, financial or planning support, and you can identify them and locate them, then Aaron’s Law is your answer.

The criminal custodial interference and kidnapping statutes require evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” and unanimous agreement by a jury for a conviction. That is far too often a bar too high for the prosecution to get over, and thus many investigations end right there, even though the children remain kidnapped.

Aaron’s Law, however, creates a civil cause of action, and a judgement can be reached in court with a lower standard, by showing “by a preponderance of the evidence” that a person did in fact participate in the criminal taking, enticing and keeping of a child from the child’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid order for joint custody.

I know that if Aaron’s Law had been on the books in 1995, the people who planned and executed the abduction of my children, who committed those crimes and the crimes that followed, would have never gotten involved in the first place.

They would have known that I would never give up on my children, and that I would have sued them for everything they could ever hope to own, for the damage and trauma they inflicted on my children, on my family and on me.

That fact would have kept my children safe in their homes, among their family and friends, growing up and living normal lives, instead of lives lived in concealment in a succession of remote Mormon enclaves in Utah, lives that led to the death of my son Aaron.

Here are some easy examples:

After my children disappeared, mail addressed to them at their mother’s last address was not forwarded to Utah, where they were being concealed. The kidnappers had thought about how forwarded mail might lead to discovery, and my children’s mail was actually being forwarded to an address in Hillsboro, Oregon, to a person named Evelyn Taylor, Mormon Relief Society President at the time of the abduction.

I later learned that it is not illegal to receive mail intended for abducted children, but Evelyn Taylor was filthy beyond her eyebrows in enticing my children out of their homes and on the road to Utah. She would have faced a lawsuit filed under Aaron’s Law had the statute been on the books, and a lot of subsequent embarrassment, probably loss of standing in her church. That eventuality would have had a strong deterrent effect.

I learned that my children’s first stop on their circuitous, hidden journey to Utah was at the home of Tony and Connie Micheletti near Salem, my former wife’s impotent brother and sister-in-law. It was here, on February 12, 1996, that my children first learned that they were being moved to Utah.

Tony and Connie Micheletti would have been looking at a lawsuit under Aaron’s Law, had the right to file a civil suit for the abduction of a child been on the books back then, and with that the leverage to force information as to the whereabouts of my children out of them. I would have seized their rancid, reeking, cat-filth-infused house and burned it to the ground.

The next example of how Aaron’s Law would have deterred the abduction of my children is that of Kory and Chris Wright, Mormon zealots and friends of my ex-wife’s and the principal planners of the kidnapping. The Wrights live in Vancouver now, but at the time of the abduction they lived in a remote area in the mountains east of Ogden, Utah.

The first place that my children were concealed in Utah was at the home of Chris and Kory Wright. These stupid, self-absorbed individuals actually wrote out sworn statements describing how they welcomed my children into their home and local Mormon church congregation, where they held leadership positions.

It is a felony to take, entice or keep a child from the child’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order. Utah and Washington statutes add the word “conceal” to the statute.

Nothing could have been simpler than to assemble “a preponderance of evidence” to show that each of these people were involved in a criminal enterprise.

For that matter, had law enforcement taken an interest in the case, it would not have been difficult to show that each of these persons were guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

You can hear what I had to say in the interview, here:

Aaron’s Law exists to act as a deterrent to non-stranger child abductions. It is not likely to be effective against stranger abductions, which take place about 100 times a year in the US.

More than 200,000 children are victims of non-stranger abductions every year, however, and Aaron’s Law can be an effective deterrent to many of those.

I hope to see the principles of Aaron’s Law applied nationwide, and that we might see that 200,000 number knocked down to zero.

Thanks again to Diane Dennis.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Kyron Horman abduction at the 8-week mark

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

I am feeling a great deal of empathy for the family of Kyron Horman, who spoke at a press conference today, eight weeks after their 7-year-old son was abducted.

Eight weeks after my four children disappeared from Oregon 14 years ago, my lawyer was able to obtain a PO Box number in Eden, Utah. It was our first clue to the general location of my children, somewhere in the mountains east of Ogden.

I later learned that mail was being received there, but not actually picked up by anyone, and that the letters I had been writing to my children's mother's last address were actually being forwarded to a woman in Hillsboro, a person named Evelyn Taylor.

By then, I had already learned that several people were involved in the kidnapping, that it had been in the works for months.

I learned even later that it is not illegal to receive mail intended for abducted children.

Later still, I learned that more than 200,000 US children are abducted by family members or persons known to the victims every year, and that the majority involve multiple perpetrators.

You learn these things one at a time when your children disappear.

A lot of numbness sets into your bones at the eight-week mark. The world feels completely empty.

And it stays that way.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 9: When the police figure it out

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office announced yesterday, more than 50 days after Kyron Horman disappeared, that they were now convinced that a crime had taken place in the disappearance of Kyron Horman.

While it took law enforcement more than a month to decide that the disappearance of a 7-year-old child was a criminal matter, Kyron's family knew it right away.

When your child disappears, like mine did 14 years ago, you know right away that a crime has been and is being committed. Sometimes the police never figure it out….

Most of us who are parents knew by the end of the first day Kyron went missing that a crime had been committed, somewhere, somehow, by someone.

This child was not lost, had not wandered off on his own, this child had been taken, whether by a stranger or by a person known to the child, we did not know, but what we knew for certain was that a crime was being committed against this child and against this child’s family.

ALL of us who are parents of kidnapped children, parents of children who have vanished with or without a trace, we knew right away.

The police needed more than a month to come to that conclusion, in a case as obvious as Kyron Horman's.

They are MUCH slower when the issues aren't so clear-cut, like when the children have vanished along with a parent or family member.

The police will take reports of missing children and there’s a filing system for those reports, where they usually wind up.

But if a family member, if a parent is gone with the child(ren), then local law enforcement rarely forwards the report on to the Oregon State Police, which explains why so few abducted children are ever listed on the OSP website, which also explains why the Sheriff’s Office is unaware of any other children missing in Oregon “that meet the criteria.”

Many of those children are gone forever.

And that’s a crime, the same crime that began on the day each child disappeared, a continuing crime, crimes with beginnings but no end.

Try to tell them that when your child disappears, you'll see....

Friday, July 9, 2010

Parental abduction wisdom, pt 8: To murder the soul

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

Former Portland police detective C.W. Jensen recently gave his opinion regarding the presumptive motive for the abduction of Kyron Horman:

“If you are really, really angry at someone, you can kill them, or you can kill their soul by taking their child away, and that’s what I’m afraid happened here.”

Every year, more than 200,000 US children are abducted by family members or persons known to the victims. The crime is horrific, but only a tiny percentage receive any attention by the media, the public or law enforcement.

In all of these cases, the abductors intend to murder the soul of the victim parent by causing their child to disappear, and are willing to murder the soul of the child victim as collateral damage.

High-conflict custody battles are common; parents use their children as weapons in far too many cases, but the abduction of a child is indeed tantamount to murder.

When my four children disappeared on February 12, 1996, 14 years ago, kidnapped by my former wife and a group of Mormon officials in three states, no one was interested. Four children vanished. Zero interest. Ho hum.

My former wife wanted to murder my soul, and was willing to put our children through hell to do so; the Mormons that Kory and Chris Wright organized to carry out the abduction wanted to re-engineer my children’s personalities, at a cost to my family that was irrelevant to them, and through a process that led to the death of my son Aaron Cruz.

Those Mormons included Evelyn Taylor and Mormon Bishop David Holliday in Washington County, Mormon Bishop Donald Taylor in Clark County and Utah resident Steve Nielson, who would become my former wife’s fourth husband, who I would later learn slapped my children around throughout their marriage.

Retired Portland police commander Cliff Madison, interviewed today about the Kyron Horman case, made a comment that resonated with my experience, referring to the revelation that Terri Horman, Kyron’s stepmom, might be involved in the 7-year-old’s disappearance:

“They’ve just been hit with a big right hook, because all of a sudden the possibility of someone within the family being involved. It is a shock, because we all refuse to believe that until it is thrown in our faces.”

It is that refusal to believe, on the part of law enforcement, the media and the public, on the part of the courts, that refusal to believe that a family member would kidnap a beautiful child, that stands in the way of recovery and of achieving justice in many, many cases.

That refusal to believe that a family member would do such a thing causes the wheels to turn slowly, if at all.

In most cases, the family is entirely on its own. No cops, no detectives, no media, no public outcry…ho hum….

In the months and years that followed the disappearance of my children, I nearly died from shock, from grief, from bereavement, from depression and from suicide, when I had run out of hope and was overwhelmed by the pain.

My mother died four years after the abduction began, without seeing or hearing from her grandchildren again. That fact alone speaks to the character of the people involved in the abduction.

Remember that kidnappings are continuing crimes, crimes with a beginning but no end….

The abduction of Kyron Horman has thrown the fact in our faces, that a person in a trust relationship with a child, a family member, could inflict harm on this scale, and law enforcement, the public and even the media are getting involved.

There was a time when they could have expended just a little bit of energy and saved my family, could have saved Aaron’s life….

Now there is Aaron’s Law on the Oregon books, soon to be modeled in other states, and with it a drive to end parental and family abductions in this country.

I hope that they find some time to take an interest in that, too.