Father and Daughter Reunited

March 26, 2009 7:10:32 PM PDT
Six months is a long time to be away from someone you love. It was almost unbearable for a Hanford father whose daughter was abducted during a custody dispute. Police say the girl's mother, Karen Johnsen, took the girl in September. They were both found last week in Minnesota.After being on the run with her mother for six months, four-year old Marina Vienne Johnsen is back in Kings County with her father. Action News got an exclusive look at how the two are making up for lost time.

Tom Pender says time spent with his daughter Marina Vienne - or Vienne as relatives call her - over the last couple days has been priceless. Pender says "It's absolutely wonderful. We missed her very much for a long, long time."

Police say six months ago, Vienne's mother, Karen Johnsen, took off with her. It happened right after a judge granted Pender visitation rights. Pender says "She was a good mother. She's always had Vienne's safety and health at heart but she never seemed to be too concerned about [Vienne's] relationship with me."

Investigators believe Johnsen was trying to make it to Canada but eventually ended up in a Minneapolis homeless shelter. She changed her appearance and was using a different name. Vienne says, "Some security guards knocked on our door and they showed us some pictures. One was me and then the other was my mom on it!"

Pender says the last six months have been nerve-wracking. Pender says "I was waiting for the phone to ring and I was preparing myself to not see her until she was 25."

Vienne is a playful four-year old. Often posing and smiling for our camera, she seems unfazed by what's happened. Investigator Keith Prewitt picked up Vienne from Minnesota. Keith Prewitt, Kings County District Attorney's Office, says "Nobody wants to think about a parent not being able to see their child again. That's kind of what Tom was looking at so it is very rewarding to see a parent reunited with their child under these circumstances."

Prewitt says Vienne is likely confused by what's happened. Pender says he wants Johnsen in Vienne's life but with boundaries.

Pender says "I think she's going to need to talk to some counselors and adjust to reality because what she did was not based on reality it was something she made up inside her head."

Karen Johnsen now faces a parental abduction charge, which is a felony. If convicted she faces up to three years in prison. She's expected to be arraigned on the charge in Kings County within the next couple weeks.

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