Alphonse: 'I still love her'

August 8, 2008 4:17:48 PM PDT
A woman accused of abducting five children she'd cared for after Hurricane Katrina is now out of jail. Rhonda Tavey was arrested Thursday for kidnapping, about 24 hours after an Amber Alert was issued for the kids. "I mean, I still love her," said Erica Alphonse, the children's mother, of Tavey.

Tavey is accused of kidnapping Alphonse's five children.

"You know, she helped me as a mother. She was there for me," said Alphonse. "I still have love for her, but she did something I never thought she would do."

After Hurricane Katrina, Tavey befriened Alphonse and eventually took in the kids while their mother returned to New Orleans to reestablish their lives.

"She told me she would never take my kids away from me and I held her up to that word," said Alphonse.

But suddenly last month, Tavey refused to hand over the kid. Tavey's lawyer said his client had no choice.

"Rhonda was threatened by the birth mother and and also threatened by the birth father," said attorney Todd Ward. "She was protecting herself and the children's interest and the children's lives."

Alphonse calls that a lie and says any suggestions she abandoned her children was ludicrous.

"I was on the phone, I called my children every day," said Alphonse. "So that was just a lie. She knows that."

It all led to an Amber Alert, which ended in the safe recovery of the kids and Tavey facing five counts of kidnapping.

After a night in jail, Tavey's out on bond. In court on Friday, a judge agreed to lower the 44-year-old's bond. She got out of jail a short time later.

"She's a little frustrated with the system right now, a little bit of disbelief, doing everything she thought was in the children's best interest," said Ward.

CPS at this point has found no validity to the claims, so the kids are back with their mother. Alphonse plans to return to New Orleans with the kids.

Tavey was released on bond with serious restrictions. She must wear an ankle monitor, stay in Harris County and cannot have any contact with the kids. If convicted, she faces 2 to 10 years in jail or each count.

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