Girl missing 13 years found in Delaware

Case among the oldest unsolved ones in country

The News Journal

WILMINGTON — For 13 years, Carl Dodd wondered where his daughter was.

Instead of pictures of her growing up, he had only computer-generated
speculation — created by a national missing-children’s organization –
of what the girl might look like. He last saw her when she was 4.

On Wednesday, U.S. Marshals, armed with the latest age-progressed photo
of Marilyn S. Byrd, knocked on a door in the 200 block of N. Harrison St.
and saw what Dodd and others had been longing to see.

Inside was Marilyn, now 17, looking very much like her computer-generated
composite, except for the hair, and her mother, Mary Jane Byrd, 35, who
fled with her from their Washington home in the summer of 1993.

The discovery ended one of the oldest missing child cases in the nation
and gave a District of Columbia police officer a chance to finally think
about putting his feet up and buying a boat.

Washington police Detective Richard Adams said he’d promised Dodd, “I
will not retire until I find your daughter.”

He said he is eligible to retire at the end of the year.

U.S. Marshal David W. Thomas said Byrd and her daughter initially gave
fake names, but marshals saw photos of the girl in the home from when she
was younger; they closely matched 13-year-old photos of the missing

Under lengthy questioning, Thomas said, the pair offered conflicting
stories. When the inconsistencies were pointed out, they finally admitted
who they were, he said.

Byrd was then taken to U.S. District Court to answer an arrest warrant
for kidnapping issued in 1994. Marilyn was released to relatives of Byrd
by state officials.

No one was able to say how long the pair had been living in Delaware.

In 1993, Byrd charged Dodd was an unfit parent and did not want a court
to allow him to see their daughter. She disappeared with Marilyn on a day
that Dodd was supposed to have a court-appointed visit.

In January 1994, Detective Adams said a judge found no basis for Byrd’s
charges and awarded Dodd full custody.

But the search for the child was stalled by problems with Washington
laws. Adams said he found that warrants for parents who fled with
children were not enforceable outside the federal district.

Adams, Dodd and six other parents lobbied the Washington government for
years before the law was altered in 2001, Adams said.

All six of the other cases were resolved, Adams said, but not Dodd’s.

Dodd, a truck driver, spent thousands of dollars on detectives and
lawyers in an attempt to find his daughter, according to a 2001
Washington Post article, and he wondered if he would ever see her again.

“There’s times when I cry inside just wondering how she’s doing. We just
hope one day we will see her again before it is too late,” he told The
Washington Post.

It became the oldest missing child case in the department’s history,
Adams said.

Deborah Brady, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
said it is also one of the oldest unresolved cases nationally.

But even after local laws were changed, Adams said, it still was
difficult to locate Byrd.

“This was a case of identity changing. Byrd never used her Social
Security number in the last 13 years for anything, so we had no way of
tracking her,” he said.

“We had no leads, but Mr. Dodd kept telling me, ‘If you find the
grandmother, you will find her,’ ” Adams said.

The grandmother, who is also named Mary Byrd, had ties to Pennsylvania,
Delaware and Maryland, he said.

Adams credited the Wilmington Police Department and U.S. Marshals with
helping him to put together the final clues that led them to Wilmington
on Wednesday.

At her appearance in federal court, Byrd almost slipped away again.

Assistant public defender Christopher Koyste pressed for Byrd’s immediate
release, arguing that the government did not have the necessary paperwork
to hold Byrd.

He also said there also could be statute of limitation issues because of
the age of the case.

But District Judge Kent A. Jordan said the warrant appeared valid and
that Byrd had been avoiding authorities for more than a decade.

He was not about to let her go, he said.

Jordan told Byrd he would either detain her in Delaware until the
additional paperwork demanded by Koyste arrived, or she could waive
further proceedings and leave with marshals to answer to the kidnapping
charge in Washington.

Byrd, who did not speak beyond answering yes or no questions, then agreed
to waive further proceedings and be taken to Washington.

If convicted, she faces up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine, said
assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas McCann.

Adams said he personally told Dodd that his daughter had been located

“He got a little weepy on me, but I can understand that,” he said.

Dodd will have to travel to Delaware to formally claim custody of his
daughter, Adams said. The detective said Dodd told him that he might let
his daughter remain in Delaware with Byrd’s relatives if that is her
wish. “He said … ‘But I do want to see her, and I do want her to know
I’m her father, and that I care for her and love her very much.’ ”

Dodd could not be reached. Adams said both he and Dodd plan to be at
Byrd’s court appearance today in Washington.

Marilyn S. Byrd was 4 years old when her mother disappeared with her.

Mary Jane Byrd is expected to appear in court today and face a charge of
kidnapping, which carries up to a year in prison and a fine.

Copyright © 2006, The News Journal

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