HOUSE SPRINGS, Mo. -- Three years after a father allegedly abducted his young daughter from Missouri and took her outside the United States to avoid detection, the mother and child are reunited and rebuilding their relationship.
Authorities say that Arlen Dean Hill II, who was separated from his wife, took their 17-month-old child for a visit on June 8, 2002, and never returned. Hill, 33, was arrested last month in New Zealand and remains jailed there, as Taylor and her mother, Julie Coleman, 30, adjust to being together again in Missouri. Coleman recounted the experience for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a copyrighted story published Wednesday.
Coleman flew to New Zealand after she learned her 4-year-old daughter had been found.
Social workers had told Taylor her mother was coming and showed her photos of Coleman. Her father had told the child her mother was dead.
Coleman was told it might be a few visits before her child would be ready to go with her.
"I told her that I was her mom and asked her if she had seen any pictures, and she said, 'Yes,"' Coleman said. "Maybe 40 minutes later, I told her, 'I want you to come live with me,' and she said OK and that she wanted to go. It was just real quick."
Coleman said she's still not certain how much the child understands.
Within hours, the two were playing hide-and-seek.
"She started calling me 'Mom-my' right away and has ever since."
Taylor has met her younger sister, Lauren, and the two share a room. She's getting along well with her stepfather. Her mother introduced him as "the Daddy who lives with us." Taylor is excited that her mom is going to have another baby girl soon.
The little girl has had to handle a lot of new information. She learned she is actually 4 years old, not 3 as she had been told.
And she now goes by her given name. The name on her passport was Lena.
Authorities believe Hill fled first to Mexico and eventually spent time in Singapore, Spain, Australia, the Philippines -- and possibly other places -- before arriving in New Zealand.
On July 12, Hill pleaded guilty to two charges there related to possession of false passports and eight immigration-related charges involving the production of fraudulent passports. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22. Authorities said Hill used the alias Paul David Reynolds.
In the U.S., Hill faces a federal charge of international parental kidnapping and a state charge of felony child abduction.
Coleman and Hill, both natives of Pinckneyville, Ill., were married in 1993. A few months after Taylor's birth in May 2001, Coleman filed an adult abuse complaint against her husband. The couple separated in late 2001.