Friday, December 07, 2001

Mom acquitted of abducting triplets granted unsupervised visitation

Canadian Press

Robin Wilhelm, CP Photo
STRATFORD, Ont. (CP) - A mother who was recently acquitted of kidnapping her triplets was granted unsupervised access to them on Friday. Carline Vandenelsen, 39, was given court permission to be alone with her children on overnight visits beginning next weekend.

Vandenelsen disappeared on Oct. 14, 2000 with her two sons and daughter while the triplets were visiting her parents' farm near Brantford, Ont. Police found them living in Mexico after a three-month international search.

She was charged with parental abduction and acquitted two months ago after a jury found she took the children out of necessity. The Crown is appealing the decision.

Vandenelsen will have her first unsupervised visit with the triplets on Dec. 15 and see the children again for four days over the Christmas period. Beginning Jan. 12, visits will occur on alternate weekends.

Vandenelsen originally asked that her access be increased to a shared arrangement where she and her husband Craig Merkley would alternate custody of the children for two-week periods.

But Justice John Desotti denied the request, saying it wasn't in the children's best interest to disrupt the familiar pattern of their lives.

"The likelihood of that happening is zero," Desotti said. "It's not a good regime."

Lawyer Gordon Lemon, who represents the children's father, was surprised by the decision.

He had asked Desotti to order supervised access to the children at a local YMCA out of fear Vandenelsen might take off with the children once again. He also argued she might try to influence them against their father, who has custody of the two boys and one girl.

At the same court appearance, Desotti cited Vandenelsen - who was defending herself without a lawyer - for contempt of court, after frequent argumentative and emotional exchanges with the judge.

She was ordered to return to court next Friday to receive her penalty.

Friday's custody ruling is an interim order, lasting until the end of February. At that point she must return to court to revisit the issue of access.

Vandenelsen has said she'll continue fighting for more custody of her children.

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