John Clark came to his home in February 1995. He found a note saying that his wife Eileen and their three young children have gone on vacation.
The case became internationally famous as one of the most prominent parental kidnappings, with the public learning bits and pieces of truth over two decades later.
The ex-couple met in the 80s. 28-year-old Eileen worked as a waitress in Georgia and met 25-year-old restaurant manager John. They fell in love and married in July 1986 in Atlanta.
Everything seemed normal, and two years after they married, they welcomed their first child, Chandler. Their second child was also a boy, Hayden, while they finally had a daughter, Rebekah, only two years before Eileen decided to flee.
Eileen struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of the third child, while John lost his job and could not find a new one.
The family moved to New Mexico, believing Albuquerque would be a fresh start. They were wrong.
Marital Troubles and Parental Kidnaping
John started a business, but it was not going smoothly, leaving Eileen to be the sole breadwinner for the family of five.
As we would later learn, this story had two very different sides. Eileen soon decided she needed to leave John because he was abusive. Due to her past depression, she was afraid she would lose in a custody battle.
Instead, the mother packed the children, who were 7, 5, and 2, and went to Eileen's friend in California.
Still, according to Eileen, she did not feel safe, so she fled the country.
John involved the FBI in the matter, and by 2001 he lost hope he would see his children again.
Eileen's New Life in England
Eileen relocated her family to Oxford, England, and remarried. The marriage was dissolved in 1997, and John also had a new wife, later claiming she gave him the strength to stay hopeful.
With Eileen marrying Ron Woolsey in 1999, she and her children had the right to stay in the UK.
She avoided getting caught by homeschooling her three children, but in 2004, she appeared on the FBI's wanted list.
Eileen called a lawyer, who told her that the charges of custodial interference were dropped. That was not the case.
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Eileen Was Arrested in 2010
Hayden told his doctor that he noticed his name on the FBI's missing children roster in 2007.
The doctor reached out to the authorities, who called the FBI. Finally, a year later, the family was located.
In 2009, Chandler, then 21, and Hayden, 19, wrote to the FBI stating they were living with their mother but were not missing.
Despite their claims, Eileen was arrested and charged with international parental kidnapping in 2010.
What came next was a battle across both sides of the pond. The British media was heavily on the mom's side, while the US media believed John Clark and did not find Eileen's abuse allegations to be valid.
John's Heartbreak and Eileen's extradition to the US
Chandler and Hayden briefly visited their father in New Mexico, but the children sided with their mother as soon as the trial began.
John was doing his part, even going to Dr. Phil's show to seek a way to get his children back into his life.
Eileen claimed John used to hit her and went as far as threatening to push her down the stairs while she was pregnant.
Their daughter, Rebekah, said: "I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but I just think it would be the end of her."
Eileen was extradited and pleaded guilty to a single count in 2014. She got one year of unsupervised probation, which meant she could fly back to England.
John Still Hopes He Will Reconnect With His Children One Day
Mr. Clark chose not to continue legal actions against his ex-wife in hopes his children would see his side of the story one day.
John passed the lie detector twice. The depositions painted vastly different stories, but Clark children continue supporting their mother while embracing England as their home. Considering how many years passed, it is hard to know where the truth lies.
What do you think? Was John abusive or a victim of gender bias? Should the children rebuild their relationship with their father? Drop a comment!
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Sylvia Silverstone is a passionate writer who loves to share her knowledge and expertise on a wide range of topics, including beauty, life hacks, entertainment, health, news, and money. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for storytelling, Sylvia's engaging writing style keeps readers coming back for more.