Charges against father likely to be dropped in abduction case

Composer will fight Dutch order, he says

January 20, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Prosecutors are expected to dismiss charges next week against a classically trained composer who was the focus of an FBI manhunt after he fled from Europe with his two daughters.

Charges of parental child abduction against Christopher Yavelow, 49, a Harvard-educated software engineer and the author of six books, will be placed on an inactive or "stet" docket as early as next week, said Howard B. Merker, deputy state's attorney.

The move means the state will not prosecute the case as long as Yavelow agrees to have no unlawful contact with his estranged wife and children, Merker said. Yavelow faced up to 30 days in jail on the charge.

The children have been returned unharmed to their mother, which was the state's objective in the case, Merker said.

"What we're trying to do in these cases is find the noncustodial parent and return the child to the custodial parent," he said.

Yavelow said yesterday that he intends to fight a Dutch court order issued Nov. 2 that gave full custody of his daughters to his former wife, Monique Fasel. The girls had been living in the Netherlands but were on vacation in England when their father took them to the United States.

"I'm going back to fight to get my kids back," Yavelow said. "I'm confident that decision will be reversed on appeal."

Yavelow was arrested Oct. 21 in Houston after a Baltimore County Circuit judge, responding to the action by the Dutch court, issued an order giving Fasel temporary custody of Celina Yavelow, 13, and Stephanie Yavelow, 10.

Yavelow's arrest ended a widely publicized two-month manhunt, prompted by Fasel's arrival in the United States. She worked with Baltimore County police and the FBI, and made appearances on network television pleading for the return of her children.

Yavelow was spotted in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and Florida before he was arrested at a friend's house in Houston by FBI agents acting on a tip.

He spent six days in a Houston jail before he was released on $25,000 bail.

In an interview at his mother's house in Timonium yesterday, Yavelow said that he learned police were looking for him in September when he called his mother while sightseeing in Minnesota. She told him police had been at her house.

He tried to enroll his daughters in a school in Fairhope, Ala., where he has friends, and planned to file court papers there to win legal custody of his daughters.

But he said that he moved to an undisclosed location and began home schooling his children Oct. 1 after an article about the case appeared in a Mobile, Ala., newspaper.

"I was contacting lawyers, trying to find a way out of this situation and still keep my kids," he said.

Yavelow, a classically trained musician who grew up in the Towson area, said he brought his daughters to the United States because his wife had been sending them to a school with a "new age" philosophy. The girls, he added, were unhappy.

Both girls were born in the U.S. and prefer life here, Yavelow said.

"They said over and over, `It's a dream come true. We're finally home, in America,' " Yavelow said.

Susan Elgin, Fasel's lawyer, said that Yavelow raised those issues in the Dutch court before he fled to the United States and that he is free to appeal the Dutch ruling.

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