APB Online

May 25, 2000

Grandma Jailed in Custody Violation

Accused of Taking Grandson to Father in Trinidad

APB Online

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) -- A 55-year-old woman is being held on $500,000 bail for taking her 6-year-old grandson to Trinidad to live with his father without the permission of his legal guardians.

Joy Alvarez was jailed today for taking Brandon Alvarez out of the United States to live with his father. The boy's father was deported from the United States in 1998 because he had a criminal record. The boy's mother was killed in a 1996 car crash.

Brandon's maternal grandparents, Robert and Kathleen Willard of Nashua, have custody of the boy.

"All they really want is the child to come back," said Brian Snow, the Willards' attorney.

U.S. working with embassy

The U.S. State Department has been working with police, immigration officials and the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad to seek Brandon's return.

"Joy Alvarez has persisted in thwarting all attempts to return Brandon to his home," Martha Hutchins, a staffer in the State Department's Office of Children's Issues, wrote in a letter filed at Nashua District Court.

"To this point, Mrs. Alvarez has continued to be uncooperative with mediation efforts. However, it is felt that she might become more cooperative the longer she stays incarcerated," Hutchins wrote.

Alvarez and the boy's mother, 20-year-old Lara Willard, had lived together and planned to marry.

Mother killed in crash

In June 1996, Alvarez pleaded guilty to simple assault and robbery conspiracy for a 1995 mugging and stabbing in Nashua. He was sentenced to a year in jail, with an additional suspended prison sentence.

Brandon and his mother, a nursing student at Fitchburg State College, lived with her parents while Alvarez was in jail, Snow said. But in early October 1996, Willard died in a car crash.

Alvarez was let out of jail early to attend her funeral, and he took custody of his son, Snow said.

In 1998, Alvarez took his son to Trinidad in violation of probation, according to Snow and court records. When they returned in May 1998, Alvarez was detained by U.S. Customs and deported because of his felony conviction.

Grandparents favored U.S.

Both sets of grandparents agreed it would be better for Brandon to be raised in the United States and a court awarded them joint custody.

Alvarez objected in a petition.

"There is no immigration law that states that if anyone is deported that they have lost their legal right for their son," he said.

The Willards agreed to let Joy Alvarez take Brandon to visit his father in February 1999, but she brought him back three weeks later than they had agreed.

When she asked them for permission to take Brandon to Trinidad again in December, the Willards said no.

Court decision too late

The Willards later learned that Alvarez had bought plane tickets for February. They asked for an emergency court order that would prevent her from leaving the country and grant them sole custody of the boy. They got what they wanted, but it was too late.

Alvarez didn't show for the hearing, and the Willards later learned she had taken the boy to Trinidad.

She was arrested May 16 while boarding a plane bound for Trinidad at Kennedy International Airport in New York and extradited to New Hampshire. Alvarez was jailed after her arraignment Wednesday in Nashua District Court and charged with interfering with custody, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

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