Both parents are still seeking custody of the boy, even as the dad faces a jail term.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Marie Turner thinks six months in jail isn't nearly enough time for the man who took her son for five years.
"You don't know what it's like to look at your son after five years and be a complete stranger to him," Turner told Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph D. Pratt.
Pratt was in court Monday to hear the plea agreement county prosecutors offered Timothy Stamp, 30, of Simi Valley, Calif.
Stamp is accused of running off with his 4-year-old son, Casey, five years ago after losing custody of the boy in Lawrence County Family Court.
He pleaded guilty to interference with the custody of a child and concealing the whereabouts of a child in exchange for a sentence recommendation of six months to 23 1/2 months in the Lawrence County Jail. Prosecutors said they would not object to Stamp's applying for parole after six months if he didn't get into trouble while in jail. He would also be sentenced to four years' probation.
Mother's opinion: Turner said that she was told about the plea agreement but that she was never asked if it was acceptable. She said six months is not nearly enough time after what she, Casey, now 9, and a daughter, Sarah, 7, who remained with Turner, have experienced.
"I don't believe six months compares to the five years I lost with my son and my daughter lost with her brother. I believe he should get the maximum end of his plea," Turner said.
The FBI found Casey in December living with his father in California, with a new name and birth date, authorities said.
Stamp lost custody of Casey and Sarah in 1996 to Turner. After that ruling in Lawrence County Family Court, authorities failed to locate Stamp and the boy, who had both been living in Austintown. Turner filed criminal charges against Stamp in March 1996. Local and federal authorities had been searching since.
Lawyer's argument: Stamp's attorney, Lee Rothman of Pittsburgh, argued that his client should get the low end of the proposed sentence and characterized Stamp's actions as a crime of passion.
"Mr. Stamp acted in what he believed was the best interest of the child at the time. It was not done out of spite for another human being, but out of love for the child," Rothman said.
"He took him out of spite. He told me the day I left him that he would take my son," she said after Monday's hearing.
Both parents are seeking custody of Casey in Lawrence County Family Court. Turner said no rulings have been made in that matter since Casey was returned to her in December.
Child's welfare at center: Judge Pratt said he would consider Turner's comments and issue an order if he does not agree with the prosecutor's plea agreement.
The judge said he was most concerned for the welfare of Casey.
"It's not the parents who are the victims, it's the child. The child was deprived of his mother for years and that in itself is enough to do irreparable harm to the child," he said.
Turner said Casey is in weekly counseling and is adjusting to his new surroundings.
Stamp will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 7.