Kidnap charge upheld for abducting own kids

Counts reinstated against Brick man
Saturday, June 04, 2005

Star-Ledger Staff

A state appeals court ruled yesterday that a divorced parent can be
convicted of kidnapping his or her own children.

The appeals court reinstated kidnapping charges against a Brick man who,
together with his new wife, fled the state with his two children
following a Christmas visit in 2000 and tried to literally sail off to a
new life.

A lower court had ruled that because John Kindt Jr. had joint legal
custody of the children with his first wife, the most he could be charged
with was interfering with custody. The three-judge appeals court
disagreed and ordered him to stand trial on the more serious charge of
kidnapping, punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment.

It also affirmed the kidnapping conviction of Kindt’s second wife, Stacey
Froland, whose diary detailed their scheme for “disappearing from the
face of the earth.” The appeals court rejected her arguments that she
could not be convicted of kidnapping because she had Kindt’s permission
to take the children.

Froland, who was convicted in 2003 following a seven-day trial, served 16
months in prison and was paroled last September. Kindt’s trial has been
delayed pending the appeal but can now proceed on the kidnapping charge.

According to the ruling, Kindt married his first wife, Anne O’Connor, in
1985, and they adopted two children whom the court identified only by
their initials, J.K. and O.K. Kindt and O’Connor divorced in May 2000
with an agreement that they would share custody of the children.

Pursuant to that agreement, the children spent the following Christmas
Day with their mother in Monmouth County and went two days later to be
with Kindt and his new wife at their Brick home. O’Connor was to pick
them up at noon the following Saturday, Dec. 30.

But when O’Connor called the evening before, she found the phone had been
disconnected. When she went the next day to pick up the children, then
ages 5 and 6, she found the house deserted and filed a missing children’s

According to the opinion, investigators later determined that on Dec. 29,
2000, Kindt, his two children and Froland — along with her daughter and
an 18-year-old nephew — boarded an Amtrak train for North Carolina.
Kindt purchased a 39-foot-boat, the Dorado, insured it using a phony name
and stocked it with $1,600 of groceries and $1,500 of boat supplies. They
all set sail from Oriental, N.C., on Jan. 20, 2001.

But two days later, their boat became disabled, they were picked up by
the Coast Guard and the three adults were later arrested. Police searched
the boat and found nautical charts for the intracoastal waterway, Florida
Keys and the Bahamas and books with the titles “Hide Your Assets and
Disappear” and “How to be Invisible,” the court said.

Police also found a computer hard drive containing a copy of a letter
from Froland to her mother claiming they had no intention of permanently
taking the children from O’Connor.

“The children need their mother and should be afforded a relationship
with her,” Froland’s letter stated. “However, we also believe very
strongly (and the Bible supports us) that the father is the head of the
household.” It went on to state her belief that by relocating they would
get a fairer shake from the courts than in Monmouth County, where
O’Connor’s father was a former county counsel, according to the opinion.

“This is not an escape, it is a rescue,” Froland’s letter stated.

Prior to 1999, the most Kindt could have been charged with was
interfering with custody, according to Assistant Monmouth County
Prosecutor Barry Serebnick, who argued that a change made that year to
the kidnapping law covers parents who try to permanently take their
children away from the other parent.

Appellate Division Judge Michael Winkelstein agreed.

“When both parents have equal rights to the children under a joint
custody agreement, neither parent can remove children without infringing
on the powers, rights and duties of the other,” Winkelstein wrote. He was
joined by Appellate Division Judges Dennis Braithwaite and Joseph Lisa.

Kindt’s lawyer, Mark Fury, and Froland’s lawyer, Mark Guralnick, both
said they were disappointed by the ruling.

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