Man convicted for kidnapping his children

Friday, February 10, 2006

Daniel Porter has terrorized his ex-wife and taunted authorities with varying stories of their fate.

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Tina Porter won. But she was not celebrating.

The mother whose children went missing after a weekend visit with their father nearly two years ago cried as the judge announced her ex-husband, Daniel Porter, was found guilty Thursday of four kidnapping charges.

"What happened here today doesn't really change anything," Tina Porter said. "Because Sam and Lindsey are still gone."

And there is no sign any change is in store.

Since the children's disappearance, Daniel Porter has terrorized his ex-wife and taunted authorities with varying stories of their fate. His public defender said 42-year-old Porter only sought to protect his children from an abusive childhood like his own, but jurors didn't buy it.

He faces up to 38 years in prison for his convictions.

The verdict came after about four hours of deliberations. In two days of testimony, the jury heard 90 minutes of questioning of the defendant's ex-wife; saw a videotape of the couple's conversation at a police station after the defendant's arrest; and watched just one witness take the stand for the defense.

The videotape and prosecution witnesses combined to depict a rambling Daniel Porter who gave numerous accounts of the fates of Sam and Lindsey -- that they were sold for $6,001, that they were strangled and thrown in a river, even that they had become part of a pornography ring.

"I killed them," he told his ex-wife in their videotaped exchange. "Tell the judge I killed them."

Authorities -- and the children's mother -- have doubted the veracity of that statement. But they aren't sure what to believe.

The children have been missing since June 2004, when Daniel Porter picked them up from his ex-wife for a weekend visit. Since then, investigators have scoured the Kansas City suburbs of Independence and Sugar Creek and searched the area around Daniel Porter's hometown of Trenton in northern Missouri, but have come up with nothing.

Defense attorney Tim Burdick suggested his client feared that men Tina Porter was involved with might treat the children as Daniel Porter's stepfather allegedly treated him.

"I'm not saying what we're looking at is rational. I'm not saying what we're looking at is reasonable. I'm not saying what we're looking at is good cause," Burdick said in his closing statement. "The question is, what was his purpose?"

That, prosecutors said, was clear, and mandated Porter be found guilty not of just two counts of parental kidnapping, as Burdick said the jury should, but also of two counts of the more serious kidnapping charge.

"The defendant used his children as objects to terrorize Tina Porter," said Bronwyn Werner, an assistant Jackson County prosecutor. "He chose the most ghastly means with which to get back at her."

Tina Porter sat pensive in the courtroom's front row during closing arguments Thursday. The defendant, wearing a gray shirt and black jeans, rested his face on a closed fist as he awaited the jury's announcement. He hid his face behind a yellow legal pad as he left the courtroom.

Porter received a 10-year prison sentence last May on an unrelated gun charge, a stiff sentence prosecutors had hoped would persuade the defendant to reveal his children's whereabouts. It didn't, but Jackson County Prosecutor Mike Sanders said -- as he has throughout the case -- that Daniel Porter holds the keys to his own jail cell and that he may be willing to negotiate a lesser sentence.

Sgt. Dennis Green, a detective with the Independence Police Department, said authorities continue to work leads in the case. He said the conviction Thursday was bittersweet because the children, ages 7 and 8 at the time of their disappearance, are still missing.

Rick Bailey, a 58-year-old Joplin man who was the jury foreman, said some jurors stumbled over the prosecution's claim that Daniel Porter kidnapped his children in an effort to terrorize his ex-wife, but after getting clarifications to questions, they all agreed.

"There's only God and Daniel that know where these children are," Bailey said. "And that's sad."

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