Jackie’s arrest …

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THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

CUSTODY FIGHT HOUNDS `FUGITIVE’ FAMILY CUSTODY FIGHT HOUNDS FAMILY TRYING TO START OVER

Author(s): Jon Ure SLTribune Date: February 21, 1992 Page: A1 Section: Page One

The wheels of justice roared over Jackie Stoll Nemelka Thursday afternoon. Just two hours after she was interviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune, Mrs. Nemelka was arrested by FBI agents who found her in west Salt Lake City’s Rose Park, living in a bus with her family. The agents acted on a fugitive warrant from Ravalli County, Mont., where she and her husband, Christopher, are charged with parental kidnapping.

The Nemelkas thought their legal problems were ending. Christopher Nemelka had surrendered on the kidnapping charge in Montana and was released from custody while his attorney dealt with authorities there. With that, they assumed charges against Jackie Nemelka were all but dissolved. They were planning to buy a home in Salt Lake City.

She appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce, who released her on recognizance and ordered her to appear on the fugitive warrant today. Mrs. Nemelka wept as federal marshals led her, handcuffed, into the courtroom. Her responses to the judge’s questions were barely audible.

The couple’s 2-month-old daughter, Sariah, also cried in court.

“The baby needs to be fed. We’ve never bottle-fed our kids,” Mr. Nemelka explained to marshals. He also worried aloud about their sons, Brandon, 3, and Caleb, 2, whom he left with relatives.

Earlier, during the interview with The Tribune, Mr. and Mrs. Nemelka blasted their treatment at the hands of the Montana justice system and described their lives as fugitives.

On June 13, Mr. Nemelka took his son from Montana’s Division of Family Services, leading to the kidnap charges. Three days earlier, his ex-wife, Paula Blades Ladenburg, had taken her and Mr. Nemelka’s children from Jackie Nemelka’s home in Victor, Mont., and fled in her car.

After a chase, officers took the children, Joshua, then 5, and Brittany, then 7, into protective custody. The Ladenburgs, who had accused the Nemelkas of abuse and neglect, obtained a court order to place the children into protective custody.

Mr. Nemelka had been granted full custody in the couples’ 1986 divorce in Utah. The divorce was a result of religious differences. Mr. Nemelka is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Three days after the children were placed in protective custody, Mr. Nemelka entered the Division of Family Services building and took Joshua. He did not take Brittany because the girl wanted to stay with her mother in Montana, he said.

More than two months later, after hiding in Oregon, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Mr. Nemelka had wearied of the fugitive life and decided to turn himself in. Before surrendering, however, he told his story to a reporter for The Tribune. While Mr. Nemelka’s case was winding through criminal court, Mrs. Ladenburg sought custody in civil court. Third District Judge David Young granted custody of Joshua and Brittany to her without Mr. Nemelka’s knowledge.

Mr. Nemelka subsequently took Joshua out of hiding with Jackie Nemelka and returned him to his mother. He then surrendered to authorities in Montana, where he spent a month in jail. In late October, with bail reduced, he was released and allowed to return to Salt Lake City.

By now he has given up hope of regaining custody of Joshua and Brittany. “I won’t see Josh and Brittany until they’re 18, old enough to search for their real father.”

(c) 1992 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.


THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

`RELIEVED’ MOTHER FREED BY U.S. MAGISTRA…

Author(s): Jon Ure SLTribune Date: February 22, 1992 Page: C1 Section: Local

Jackie Nemelka beamed as a federal magistrate told her Friday that she was free to walk from his courtroom. “I am so relieved,” she said, hugging her 2-month-old daughter, Sariah.

The federal fugitive warrant against Mrs. Nemelka, 27, was dismissed, but she still faces charges of parental kidnapping in Montana, along with her husband, Christopher, 30. The criminal case stems from a bitter custody battle involving a child from Mr. Nemelka’s first marriage.

Mrs. Nemelka was arrested Thursday afternoon by FBI agents who found her in west Salt Lake City’s Rose Park, where she was living in a bus with her husband, their daughter, and sons, Caleb, 2, and Brandon, 3.

Later that afternoon she was released, but she was bracing herself for incarceration after the bail hearing scheduled Friday in U.S. District Court for Utah. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce told her that Montana had dismissed its federal warrant. Judge Boyce then dismissed the Utah warrant.

“That merely means you’re not going to be arrested on the street someplace,” court-appointed lawyer Jerold McPhie warned Mrs. Nemelka. Kidnapping charges in Ravalli County, Montana, remain in effect. A spokeswoman for Ravalli County Attorney George Corn said Mr. Corn “does not want to dismiss anything yet. He has no comment on Jackie’s case at this point.”

Asked if a plea-bargain arrangement is being negotiated for a kidnapping charge against Christopher Nemelka, she said, “It is my understanding Christopher will be asked to plead to a misdemeanor. At that time, the charges against Jackie will be dismissed.”

But Mr. Nemelka insisted Friday that he will not plea bargain. “I was thinking about it but after they took my wife, I won’t,” Mr. Nemelka said.

He and Mrs. Nemelka were charged with kidnapping in June after they took Christopher’s son, Joshua, then 5, from Montana’s Division of Family Services. Joshua and Mr. Nemelka’s daughter Brittany, then 7, were placed with family services after Paula Blades Ladenburg took the children from Mr. Nemelka, who had full custody.

Mrs. Ladenburg and her husband accused the Nemelkas of abusing and neglecting the children. The Ladenburgs obtained a court order to place Joshua and Brittany in protective custody.

Abuse and neglect charges were never filed.

Mr. Nemelka left Brittany in Montana. The Nemelkas took Joshua and fled to Oregon, Idaho and Salt Lake City. After two months on the run, Mr. Nemelka surrendered to authorities. He eventually returned Joshua to Montana, where he was jailed for a month. After his release in October, he was allowed to return to Salt Lake City while his case was under review.

Meanwhile, the charge against Mrs. Nemelka remained active, including the fugitive warrant.

After Friday’s hearing in federal court, Mr. McPhie said, that “based on what they [the Nemelkas] have told me, I believe there was probably a terrible miscarriage of justice in Montana. “I was most shocked that in June, they [Montana authorities] seized the children . . . against what was an apparently valid custodial order from Utah.”

That order, issued in 1986, granted custody of Joshua and Brittany to Mr. Nemelka after his Utah divorce from Mrs. Ladenburg. Four years later, Mr. Nemelka moved with Jackie and his new family to Montana so that Joshua and Brittany could be close to and visit their natural mother, Mr. Nemelka said.

(c) 1992 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.


THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

FATHER TRIES TO LEAVE TROUBLES IN PAST, BUT NIGHTMARE CONTINUES

Author(s): Jon Ure SLTribune Date: February 24, 1992 Page: B1 Section: Local

When Christopher Nemelka rejoined his family in Salt Lake City in October, he’d had a bellyful of publicity, lawyers, courts, jail and controversy. The 30-year-old former security officer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanted only to settle down to a Christian life of hard work, simple pleasures and the joys of watching his children grow.

It was Mr. Nemelka’s desire to be with his children that led to his legal troubles. It all began with a divorce from his first wife, Paula Blades Ladenburg, and his efforts to keep custody of their son Joshua, 6.

He had spent a month in the Ravalli County jail in Montana after returning Joshua to Mrs. Ladenburg and then turning himself in to authorities who had charged him with kidnapping the boy June 13. He had said goodbye to his $30,000 piece of property in Victor, Mont., which was lost in the legal wrangling that began with his 1986 divorce in Salt Lake City. A custody battle with Mrs. Ladenburg years later led to kidnapping charges against Mr. Nemelka and his second wife, Jackie. The couple had taken Joshua from protective custody in Montana and hid out in Salt Lake City after spending two months running from the law in Oregon and Idaho.

Mr. Nemelka has resigned himself to never seeing Joshua and his 8- year-old daughter Brittany until they turn 18. They are now in the custody of Mrs. Ladenburg, who lives in Montana. Mrs. Ladenburg and her husband, Carl, have declined to comment on the case. On Saturday, Mr. Ladenburg said, “It’s a matter between the state and Chris.” Mr. Nemelka is embittered by his ex-wife’s actions.

“She ran with those kids without legal authority,” Mr. Nemelka said of the June incident that began with Mrs. Ladenburg taking Joshua and Brittany away from Jackie Nemelka. A Montana judge put the children into protective custody after the Ladenburgs accused the Nemelkas of neglect and abuse. Mr. Nemelka took Joshua from Montana’s Divison of Family Services three days later.

“Yes, I did take the law into my own hands but I did it for a righteous reason, just like the patriots who threw the tea in Boston Harbor,” Mr.

Nemelka said.

Tired of hiding and eager to resolve the criminal charges against himself and Jackie, Christopher Nemelka made the news last summer when he turned himself in to a reporter with The Salt Lake Tribune. Jackie was pregnant and the pair had sons Brandon, now 3, and Caleb, now 2, to take care of. Daughter Sariah 2 months, has joined the family and they live in a renovated bus in Salt Lake City, where Mr. Nemelka grew up.

Last Thursday, the calm of their new life was shattered. FBI agents arrested Jackie Nemelka on a fugitive warrant from Montana. The fugitive charges were dismissed Friday, but the two still face kidnap charges. However, the Ravalli County attorney’s office indicated plea- bargain negotiations are under way.

“Boy! This can just kill a guy!” Mr. Nemelka said Friday after his wife was released. He said he considered the plea offer but “after they took my wife, I won’t.”

(c) 1992 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.