Couple Sentenced For Abducting Grandson

August 5, 2005

A couple who brought their then-6-year-old grandson to Costa Rica morethan a decade ago and raised him here,against the objections of his father, hasbeen sentenced to six months in a U.S.prison, according to newspapers in theU.S. state of Virginia.Orpheus and Sonja Woodbury, age 71and 59 respectively, brought their grandsonMark Saunders to Costa Rica in 1993during a custody dispute in the UnitedStates with Saunders’ father, ClaytonSaunders.Months after their arrival here,Clayton was granted custody of his son ina Virginia court (TT, March 13, 1994).But despite his father’s efforts – throughU.S. courts and extradition requests –Costa Rican officials determined thatSaunders was best off in Costa Rica withhis maternal grandparents, who had raisedhim since his parents separated when hewas one year old.While Mark remained on missingchild lists in the United States, he attendedthe European School in Heredia, northof San José.Last year, when he turned 18, Mark leftCosta Rica to attend college in Virginia. Hewrote an open letter to Costa Rican officialsand various government agencies thankingthem for not sending him back to theUnited States (TT, Sept. 3, 2004).Mark’s grandparents later followedhim back to Virginia, and were arrestedlast October and held for 10 days beforebeing released on $200,000 bail bond,the Virginian Pilot reported. In May theypleaded guilty to one count each offelony child abduction, the newspaperreported.The couple’s sentence was the maximumpossible under the couple’s pleaagreement. Before issuing the sentence,the judge praised the Woodburys’ effortsto raise their grandson, but said theyshould not have defied the court that gavecustody to Mark’s father, the VirginianPilot reported.The Woodburys’ attorney told thenewspaper the couple likely will bereleased on parole before serving sixmonths.

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