Halifax Herald

Wednesday, February 17, 1999
The Halifax Herald Limited

Children kidnapper now free

By Steve Maich, Truro Bureau

Truro - Shoshannah Creelman walked out of court a free woman Tuesday after admitting she abducted her children three years ago - and continues to deny their father visitation.

Judge David Milner sentenced Ms. Creelman to one day in jail for breaking a court order and moving her two sons to Rhode Island in 1996.

Her guilty plea ended a cross-border saga that has destroyed one man's faith in the justice system.

"The last five years have been a living hell, to be honest," said Ralph McLean, the father of Ms. Creelman's two children.

"I've spent a lot of long nights with no sleep working on this. Now I'm going to have to find a way to get on with my life, without my children."

Ms. Creelman, who is originally from the U.S., and Mr. McLean married in Colchester County but divorced in 1994.

She was awarded primary custody of Joseph and William, then aged two and four, and Mr. McLean received visitation rights.

In 1996, Ms. Creelman ignored police warnings and moved to Newport, R.I., with her children and new husband. She was subsequently charged with parental abduction.

Last April, U.S. marshals, acting on a warrant issued by Bible Hill RCMP, arrested Ms. Creelman.

For 10 months she fought extradition while an inmate in a Massachusetts prison.

She dropped her extradition appeal last week, clearing the way for her appearance in family court.

On the recommendation of prosecutor Nigel Allan, Judge Milner agreed 10 months in jail was punishment enough for Ms. Creelman.

Despite the guilty plea, Mr. McLean is powerless to regain access to his sons.

Ms. Creelman and her family refused to speak to reporters Tuesday. She couldn't be reached for comment later in the day.

Malcolm Jeffcock, Ms. Creelman's legal aid lawyer, said more prison time for his client "would have been less than just."

Ms. Creelman is expected to return to the U.S. today.

Mr. McLean didn't attend court Tuesday because the Crown had notified him it would not seek jail time.

"It would have been too frustrating to just watch her walk away," he said.

Mr. McLean, who has remarried and settled in Sydney, said he's disillusioned by the legal process.

"What I still don't understand is how she can plead guilty to an offence, and be set free when she continues to commit it."

The reason is that Ms. Creelman pleaded guilty to the one-time criminal offence of abduction, and cannot be charged again.

Sgt. Dave Darrah of Bible Hill RCMP has followed the case for several years.

"The sad thing for me is the fact that the kids are the ones that get hurt in all of this," Sgt. Darrah said.

"They don't get to see their biological father, and they've been without their mother for 10 months."

Mr. McLean hopes for a relationship with his sons when they're grown.

"I hope that one day they'll be able to see what I'm all about," he said.

"But I need to find a way to move on and live my life. When they're 18 or 20, I don't want them to see someone who's turned inward and let this eat me alive. ... I want to be someone they can be proud to be around."

Copyright 1999 The Halifax Herald Limited