Kidnapping suspect seeks custody of kids

August 11, 2008 4:47:37 PM PDT
Two women are battling for custody of five children. On Monday, the woman charged with kidnapping them filed a petition to get them back. Rhonda Tavey took the children and their mother in after Hurricane Katrina. She disappeared, turning up last week with the children. She claims she had taken them on vacation. But their mother says she doesn't know what Tavey is thinking.

Tavey is out on bond and was back at the courthouse Monday. She was filing a petition to take custody of the children she's accused of kidnapping. Included in the filing are allegations the five children were exposed to alcohol, drugs and family violence while they were in their mother's care.

"Her and I talked about it on many occasions and she wanted them to always be here, to be out of that environment and to be able to have a chance in life, to go to college like my daughters are and become something someday," said Tavey on Monday.

The children are back with their mother, Erica Alphonse, who denies the charges.

"Those are just false allegations. She just doesn't like me," said Alphonse. "She's going to say that. She's going to say anything negative on her behalf to make it look like she's a good person."

CPS is now investigating Tavey's accusations. She also accuses Alphonse of essentially abandoning her children to return to New Orleans. That claim may be debatable and legal analyst Joel Androphy says it's outweighed by Tavey's actions.

"For now, she's got an uphill legal battle because in many respects, she took the law into her own hands, which she was ill advised to do," he said.

Tavey's petition is set to go before a family law judge next month.

Tavey is a Red Cross volunteer, who began helping Alphonse and her five children in 2005. Last week, her mother talked to Eyewitness News, saying the entire family bonded with the children. CPS has found no validity to Tavey's claims against Alphonse.

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