posted last 12/8/15



LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities say a woman has fled to Europe with her 9-year-old and 11-year-old daughters who have been missing since late October.
Justin Bush went to police when his daughters, Taylor, age 11, and Morgan, age 9, missed several days of school.

Justin Bush went to police when his daughters, Taylor, age 11, and Morgan, age 9, missed several days of school.


The Lawrence Journal World reports Samantha Elmer was last seen in Lawrence, Kansas, with the girls on Oct. 26. The girls’ father, Justin Bush of Missouri, says he contacted Elmer after the girls missed several days of school and Elmer told him the girls were ill.

After his daughters missed four more days of school with no doctor’s note, Bush contacted Lawrence police, who traced Elmer to Europe. Sgt. Trent McKinley says missing person profiles have been created on Interpol, which assists in solving international crimes. Bush says Elmer left ahead of a custody hearing concerning their daughters. They have joint custody of the children. Elmer was also set to stand trial Nov. 2. to face theft charges.

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A mother is now facing charges in a parental abduction case out of Lawrence, KS.

She allegedly packed up her two girls in the middle of a custody battle and fled with them to Europe.

Justin Bush of Smithville, MO, went to police when his daughters, Taylor, age 11, and Morgan, age 9, missed six days of school. He had an upcoming custody hearing with his ex-wife, Samantha Elmer. Elmer had told the school that the children were out with mono.

Elmer was also about to stand trial for four felony charges in Johnson County that include identity theft, felony theft and criminal use of credit cards. She was supposed to go to trial Monday, but never showed up.

He reported his concerns to Lawrence police, where the girls lived with their mother.

Police didn’t find the girls, but did find a trail. First, they found Elmer had rented a car and dropped it off in Chicago. She and the girls boarded an international flight to Turkey, then Austria.

“They should not have been able to get on a flight at all. I did not consent for them to leave,” Bush said.

It takes two parents to apply for a child’s passport and Bush said he didn’t do that.

“She had to falsify documents to get them on a plane,” he said.

Samantha Elmer

Samantha Elmer

Bush and Elmer were locked in a nasty custody battle. Elmer filed protection from abuse orders against Bush, accusing him of mistreating his daughter. Bush claims it was a legal maneuver in their bitter break-up. No abuse charges were ever filed.

Elmer now faces two counts of aggravated interference with parental custody, the Kansas statute for what is essentially parental abduction.

Elmer’s minimum sentence would be 11 months. Her maximum sentence would be 34 months. The large gap is because her sentence would depend on a criminal record.

A judge would have the discretion to run Elmer’s potential two sentences from this and her felony theft charges consecutively or concurrently.

KCTV5 learned the plane tickets Elmer purchased were round trip tickets, with a return flight Thursday.

Police cautioned Bush about getting his hopes up that they would return on that flight since one way international tickets are subject to more scrutiny and can be more expensive.

Investigators told Bush Thursday morning that his ex-wife and daughters did not make that flight.

“She knew it was over, that’s why she ran. She knew she was going to lose custody, she knew she was in trouble, she took off and she ran,” Bush said.

Larry Hoffman, Bush’s attorney, said he’s having to deal with international treaties, going through Interpol and Homeland Security.

“It’s extremely complex,” he said. “When you have an international abduction case in the international area, that’s difficult.”

Hoffman said where the girls are found matters. Not all countries follow international treaties for children.

Bush is using a combination of legal channels and is circulating a flyer on social media.

A bench warrant was issued for Elmer’s arrest for missing her criminal identity theft trial. A separate bench warrant was issued for her for missing the custody hearing.

When Elmer fled to Europe, Bush was granted sole legal and primary custody of both of his daughters.

Bush and his wife drove to Chicago this week to get emergency passports.

“That way, as soon as they find my girls, I can fly and get them,” he explained.

Now, they play a waiting game as different agencies work to find his daughters.

“I just want my girls back,” said Bush. “I just want them back and safe. She can do whatever she wants. Just give my girls back. They don’t deserve to go through that. They are just children.”

Elmer’s sister reached out to KCTV5 with a statement on behalf of her family:

“We are praying for the girls’ safe return home. The family also asks that you respect their privacy during this very difficult time.”

Elmer’s family says they support Bush in this case.

Bush isn’t sure why Elmer chose for them to flee to Austria. He wonders if the ultimate goal is Germany. The girls were born there because he and Elmer were military. He’s concerned she could try to get dual citizenship.

Bush has started a GoFundMe page to help with legal expenses in bringing his daughters back.

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