The parents of two children who were allegedly kidnapped 20 years ago by their grandparents are anxious to reunite with the now grown-up son and daughter they haven’t seen since 1989. But they also understand why it may take time before their children can bring themselves to meet them after so many years of separation.
“I think they’re kind of spooked,” Mark Baskin told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview Monday, referring to his son and daughter. “How would you feel if you suddenly realized the last 20 years of your life have been a lie? It’s probably very hard for them.”
Baskin and his wife, Debbie, spoke via satellite from San Jose, Calif., where Debbie Baskin’s father, Marvin Maple, was arrested last week for kidnapping his grandchildren on March 1, 1989, after a bitter custody battle with his daughter and son-in-law. Maple rejected his daughter’s request to talk to him.
“My father refused to see me,” Debbie Baskin said, visibly fighting to control her emotions. “I wanted to tell him that I have forgiven him, but that there are consequences to actions and that he was going to have to deal with those consequences. I always wanted to tell him he tried to destroy me and our family. And his plan did not work.”
A bitter legacy
The Baskins have two other children, one of whom is adopted.
Maple, 72, and his wife, Sandra, who is deceased, had been granted temporary custody of the children after charging the Baskins with sexually abusing the children and engaging in Satanic rituals. Authorities in Tennessee, where the families lived at the time, say they investigated the charges thoroughly and determined them to be unfounded.
Ordered to return the children, Christi, then 8, and Bobby, then 7, on March 1, 1989, the Maples instead went into hiding with the children, according to authorities, eventually raising them in California under the assumed names of Jennifer and Jonathan Bunting.
The case got a lot of publicity in newspapers and on television. The FBI participated in the search for the Maples, and the Baskins said they hired private investigators. Though they got many leads, they could never find their children.
The Baskins have said that they realize that Maple probably taught the children that their birth parents are evil, and that it will take a long time with therapists for them to come to grips with everything they’ve learned since Maple was arrested last week.
“My mother and father said he would kill them before he would ever let us see them,” Debbie Baskin told Vieira.
“I think with time they will come to realize they do need to reach out to us,” Mark Baskin said. He said he and his wife will stay in San Jose, where the two children live. Jennifer reportedly was living with her grandfather and working as a nurse. Jonathan reportedly is married and may have children of his own.
“We want to show them we are serious about a reunification,” Mark Baskin told Vieira.
According to authorities, the kidnapped Baskin children are now known as Jennifer and Jonathan Bunting.
1PfalsefalseHanging onto hope
The case finally broke after a Tennessee newspaper ran a story about the coming 20th anniversary of the kidnapping. Police say Maple read the story online and was angered at the way he was portrayed in it. He reportedly started to talk to friends about his involvement in the case at his San Jose hangout, the South Side Cafe.
One of the people he talked to called authorities, and Maple was arrested last Monday, Feb. 2.
At a press conference last week, Debbie Baskin held up a picture of her extended family for television cameras.
She told Vieira that the family’s faith kept them going.
“I survived because of Jesus Christ,” she said. “We’ve had so many people across America and the world praying for us. When you have faith, you have hope. We hung onto that hope.”