A mother accused of kidnapping her two children for nearly a year says she had full custody of the pair and disputes their father’s claim the kids were kept out of school and bounced around rural Airbnbs to avoid detection.
Brooke and Adrian Gilley, 11 and 12, were allegedly kidnapped by Kristi Nicole Gilley, 35, on March 15 last year in Clay County, Missouri.
They were found by police last week at a Winn-Dixie grocery store in High Springs, Florida – 1,100 miles from where they were taken – after a routine tag check on Kristi’s car flagged it as belonging to a fugitive.
She was arrested on parental kidnapping charges and is currently in custody, police in Liberty, MO, said. She denies the charges and her lawyer told DailyMail.com that she had custody of the children.
Attorney Maurice McDaniel said: ‘I don’t know that she tried to conceal the kids or anything of that nature, she has a grandparent here in High springs. I do not believe she had intentions of hiding the kids from the authorities, she is the primary parent and was doing everything here to get them into school.’
Brooke (left) and Adrian Gilley (right), 11 and 12, were taken by Kristi Nicole Gilley on March 15 last year in Clay County and have now been discovered eleven months later
High Springs Police department discovered that Gilley was a fugitive and apprehended her in the grocery store
McDaniel claimed the mother ‘has always been the primary custodian of the children’, despite court records which allege otherwise.
He spoke as the children’s father, Blake Gilley, 38, described his year-long ordeal after being reunited with his children on Friday.
He told NBC News: ‘My kids were missing. I didn’t know where they are. That’s the biggest fear in the world.
‘It is an understatement to say I was terrified and freaked out.’
The children told him Kristi had kept them out of school since they were taken, Blake said.
He claimed his ex-wife had taken steps to conceal the children’s identities, limited who they spoke to and told them to avoid eye contact with people.
Kristi and the children were in disguises when police found them.
High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard said the mother and two children were ‘en route to an Airbnb right outside of our area’.
‘These children and their abductor were passing through the area and had no residency connection to Alachua County, Florida, nor were they enrolled in any schools,’ police said.
Blake, who lives in Texas, said: ‘Kristi would never tell them what town they were in or anything. If they were in a car, they had to keep their heads down. My son still does that.’
He said his son, who is nonverbal and has Down syndrome, will still ‘just look at the ground’.
‘He’s getting better now. I’ve been telling him, ‘Hey, you’re good, buddy, look up’,’ Blake said.
Blake said he divorced Kristi in 2016 and she disappeared with the children before the custody dispute was resolved.
Police in Liberty, Missouri, had appealed for information to help find the children after they were reported missing
He said his children ‘are still in shock’ and the ordeal is still ‘bothering them’.
The father now plans to arrange counseling for his children and return them to school ‘to give them a fighting chance in life’.
Blake thanked the police officers who ‘worked their butts off’ to find his missing children.
Gilley, 36, was not the guardian of the children at the time, and officers managed to track her down after a routine vehicle tag check
Court documents allege ‘Kristi had been making it increasingly difficult for Blake to visit or speak to the children for quite some time, and had refused to let Blake visit or speak to the children at all, since 3/15/2022.’
Authorities had also checked an address for the children’s grandparents in Chico, California, but the relatives had moved.
McDaniel said Blake was given ‘primary custody’ after the divorce and Blake had them ‘for summers and spring break, as well as an option on Thanksgiving’.
‘She has always kept the courts updated of her whereabouts, and also been in contact with the husband throughout. She has made quite a few filings with the Missouri court with regards to the family law matter,’ said McDaniel.
McDaniel said he didn’t know ‘why the charges are the way they are’, adding: ‘In my opinion this is going to shake out to be something a little less than it has been portrayed.
‘She is also saying she has some fear of her ex-husband and things of that nature. She has some real concerns. At their home in Texas when they were married law enforcement were called twice, is what she as advised me. Where that goes, I don’t know, I don’t believe anybody was arrested.’