U.S. Attorney's Office
Central District of Illinois
(217) 492-4450
October 20, 2015

Woman Faces Charge of International Parental Kidnapping for Taking Child from Urbana to Canada

PEORIA, IL—A federal grand jury has indicted a Canadian woman, Sarah M. Nixon, 47, of Montreal, on a charge of international parental kidnapping, as announced by Jim Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois. The indictment, returned today, alleges that Nixon took her minor-aged child from the United States in July 2015 with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of another person’s parental rights.

Nixon was previously charged by criminal complaint and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Nixon was arrested on Sept. 20, 2015, in New York, as she attempted to return to the U.S.

The affidavit filed in support of the complaint alleges that Nixon and the child failed to appear for a custody exchange with the child’s father in Urbana on July 13, 2015. A Champaign County circuit court had ordered that full custody of the child should immediately go to the father. When Urbana police officers went to Nixon’s home in the 700 block of East Green St., to check on Nixon and the child’s welfare, it appeared that all valuables had been removed and minimal possessions were left behind.

Also on July 13, according to the affidavit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that Nixon and the child had entered Canada earlier in the day. Two days later, on July 15, Canadian officers found Nixon’s abandoned car and Nixon and the child at a nearby farmhouse in a rural area near Moose Creek, Ontario. Authorities then returned the child to the father.

According to the affidavit, following a week-long custody trial, on July 13, 2015, Champaign County Circuit Judge Arnold F. Blockman ordered that full custody of the child should go to the father. In Judge Blockman’s final order, the court determined that visitation between Nixon and the minor child would endanger the child’s mental and emotional health. Judge Blockman ordered that the child be immediately turned over to her father and that Nixon have no contact with the child except one recorded Skype or telephone contact per week for two months.

During Nixon’s initial court appearance on Sept. 21, in federal court in Syracuse, New York, she waived detention hearing and was ordered to remain detained in U.S. Marshals Service custody pending her transportation to the Central District of Illinois. The U.S. Clerk of the Court will issue a date for Nixon to appear for arraignment upon her return to Illinois.

If convicted, the statutory maximum penalty for international parental kidnapping is three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Urbana Police Department; University of Illinois Police Department; the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; the Ontario Provincial Police; and, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in cooperation with the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

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