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Pair fled with child, got caught previously.

Byline: REBECCA NOLAN The Register-Guard

A young Eugene mother who kidnapped her son and hid from his father and authorities for two years remained Friday in a Montana jail on $70,000 bail.

Jennifer Ellen Siefke, 24, was arrested Tuesday in Livingston, Mont., along with her mother, Margaret Ellen Cholewinski, 58. The pair had been on the FBI's parental kidnapping "Most Wanted" list for more than a year.

The women were charged Thursday with one count each of custodial interference in Park County District Court. Cholewinski was being held on $60,000 bail.

The abducted boy, 6-year-old Wassim Amer Noman, was in good condition. Wassim and Siefke's 3-year-old daughter by another man were placed in foster care after the arrest of their mother and grandmother, Park County officials said.

The boy's father, Amer Mohamed Ali Noman, 37, of Eugene, could not be reached for comment. Messages left at his lawyer's office were not immediately returned.

Siefke has told authorities that she left Eugene on June 23, 2000, with her son in violation of an Idaho court's custody order out of fear that his father would take the boy to Yemen and never return.

Siefke and the boy disappeared with Cholewinski six weeks after Noman was granted sole legal and physical custody of Wassim.

The women were sought on Oregon state and federal warrants charging them with custodial interference and unlawful flight from prosecution.

The fugitives had apparently lived in a trailer near Livingston for several weeks, Park County officials said. It was unclear where they previously had lived.

It wasn't the first time Siefke and Cholewinski were arrested for custodial interference, court records show.

Siefke and her mother pulled a similar trick and vanished with the boy in August 1999. They fled to Ohio and California before settling in Idaho.

But Siefke turned herself in to Boundary County, Idaho, authorities six months later, and the boy was returned to his father in Eugene.

In that case, Siefke pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child abduction and was sentenced to two years' probation. In light of Siefke's erratic behavior, the father was granted full custody of Wassim, according to court documents. Siefke was allowed to visit the boy several days a week, but she could not leave Lane County with him, and her mother was forbidden to see the child.

Wassim Noman was born in January 1996, when Siefke was 18 years old. Amer Noman, 13 years her senior and a native of Yemen, had already been married and divorced at least once.

In November 1996, the couple traveled with the newborn to Yemen, where Siefke said she was severely mistreated and abused, according to Brian Long, the attorney who represented her in the first criminal trial.

"To hear her tell it, it was almost like she was in slavery," Long said when reached in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Friday.

She was forbidden to leave the house or talk to anyone outside the family, and she was treated like a servant, Long said.

Siefke escaped from Yemen eight months later after she convinced one of her husband's uncles to help her bribe her way back to the United States, Long said. She eventually rejoined Noman in Eugene.

But they soon separated, and the years of legal wrangling began. It was unclear whether the pair divorced because it was never determined whether they had been legally married, Long said. Whatever the nature of their relationship, it had ended by Sept. 19, 1998, when Siefke married Harold Siefke.

That marriage would last less than a year and produce the daughter found with Siefke and Cholewinski in Livingston, court records showed.

The Idaho judge who handled the custody case after the first abduction did not sympathize with Siefke's story of abuse, Long said. The judge granted Noman full custody by way of punishing Siefke for the kidnapping, Long said.

In a Eugene police report taken after the second kidnapping, Siefke's brother, Matt Messier of Eugene, said that his sister and mother were distraught over the custody decision and had decided that their only choice was to flee.

Messier told police that Cholewinski called him from Fresno, Calif., a few days after vanishing. According to the police report, Cholewinski said they were not coming back or returning the boy, and that she "wants to get the kids raised" before they got caught.
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Title Annotation:Crime: A mother and daughter held in Idaho committed custodial interference in 1999.; Crime
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 28, 2002
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