A Jefferson City woman took matters into her own hands when her ex-husband refused to return their children after a visit to his native Russia.
Gaila Trusty says her children, 12-year-old Aleksandra and 11-year-old Nicolai, were supposed to spend June and July with their father, Gennadiy Ivanov, in Houston. During that time, they would also be visiting Ivanov's parents in Moscow.
"The day before they were supposed to leave to come back I called to see if they were packing and how things were going...and that's when Aleksandra told me there had been a change of plans and their dad said they weren't coming back home," Trusty said.
"He said that his parents were old, and if anything happened to them he needed us there to help him," Aleksandra said.
Trusty said Ivanov initially told her she could visit the children whenever she wanted, so she planned a trip to Moscow for September. When she called the week before, he had changed his mind and said she could no longer visit.
Trusty pressed charges for parental kidnapping, and a warrant was put out for Ivanov.
Jefferson City Police Detective Mark Edwards took the report.
"A mom's just not going to stand by and allow something like this to happen to her kids," Edwards said.
Trusty hired both a local and a Russian attorney to become familiar with Russian law. She was told that her custody agreement would not be honored in Russia and the courts would likely side with her Russian husband.
She also learned that in Russia, parents cannot "kidnap" their own children; so she decided to take them back.
"I decided that I had to go over there and get them," Trusty said.
She went to Moscow in November with a friend who has a security consulting business for safety and help.
Her plan was to get the kids as they walked into their schools.
"I was just going up my steps and I said 'hey, that lady looks kind of like my mom,' and then I realized that it was my mom. And I just freaked out," Aleksandra said.
"I was going to get the kids before they both went into their schools. I was able to get Aleksandra before she went into her school but Nicolai had already entered his building. So by the time I was able to make contact with Nicolai and the three of us were outside the school in the courtyard trying to leave the school grounds...by then a lot of the other teachers were out and were intervening," Trusty said.
After a meeting in the principal's office, there was a general consensus among school staff, local police, the US Embassy and Ivanov that the children be allowed to go back to the United States with their mother.
Trusty calls it a miracle, and said she does not predict Ivanov will return to the United States any time soon, if ever.
If he does, he will face the parental kidnapping charges.
"We would be notified if he would come back into the United States. But I can tell you if he did he would have to stand trial for this, and charges would not be dropped," Edwards said.
Trusty said she consulted with Jefferson City Police, the US State Department and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer's office through the process.
Detective Edwards says the Cole County Prosecutor's Office also played a key role in issuing the arrest warrant.