Within days, Danny Dimm will finally be reunited with his son Timber.
It's only been a couple of weeks since I first reported that five-year-old Timber had been abducted for the second time in a year by his mother Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm. Each abduction came shortly before her ex-husband was to have extended parenting time with his son. Here's
the latest article (Pioneer Press
, 8/3/11). And here's
my first piece on the child's abductions by his mother.
Danny and Wendi were married in British Columbia where he still lives and works. Their son Timber has been diagnosed as mildly autistic. When they divorced, Bartell-Dimm made allegations of child abuse against Danny, but those were investigated and found to be not merely unsubstantiated, but outright false. At the time, the judge questioned Bartell-Dimm's mental stability, but still awarded primary custody to her.
Shortly thereafter, she moved with the boy to Minnesota forcing Danny to travel to see his son. Bartell-Dimm made that even harder by refusing to pay half of his travel expenses, despite a court order that she do so. That meant two years passed with Danny only seeing Timber twice.
So he went to court and got an order that he have unrestricted access to his son for three months in a row. Bartell-Dimm responded to that by abducting the boy for the first time. They were apprehended a few days later in a routine traffic stop.
Despite her violation of the court's order, nothing was done either by the Canadian family court or by Minnesota police to punish her. So when the family court once again ordered that Danny have months of unrestricted contact with Timber, Bartell-Dimm did the same thing, only this time more effectively.
She abducted Timber some time in early June and seven weeks passed during which authorities had no idea of where she was and no leads. There were no credit card charges, so she was clearly using cash. Police at the time believed she must be getting help from someone, and private investigator Ed Wunsch of Hopkins, Minnesota thought he knew who.
Wunsch runs an organization called Parental Abduction Child Recovery Team which specializes in finding children who've been abducted by their parents and returning them to the left-behind parent. He thought Bartell-Dimm might have disappeared with Timber into a women's domestic violence shelter somewhere.
Now police have found Bartell-Dimm and Timber and where do you suppose they were? In a women's domestic violence shelter outside Sturgis, South Dakota.
I contacted Wunsch and surprisingly, he had nothing to do with Bartell-Dimm's apprehension or Timber's rescue. He'd been contacted by Danny and was preparing to meet with him when the good news arrived.
Wunsch told me that his understanding is that a woman at the shelter had become suspicious of Bartell-Dimm and, when she left the shelter went online to the site of the Center for Missing and Abducted Children and found Bartell-Dimm's name along with Timber's. She then called the FBI in Sioux Falls who apparently made the bust.
The linked-to article tells us that Bartell-Dimm and the boy were living there under assumed names which led me to wonder whether the shelter knew they were using aliases. Wunsch told me that often women who come to those shelters tell the administration that they had to leave the house quickly and were unable to take belongings including identification. That way they can give a false name to the shelter.
Did the South Dakota shelter abet Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm's violation of the law? Did people there conspire with her in her abduction of Danny Dimm's son? Ed Wunsch doesn't know, but that's something local law enforcement needs to find out. Bartell-Dimm was missing for about nine weeks. If she was in that shelter for even half that time, someone should have figured out that something was amiss with her story. (I spoke with one person connected with the shelter who told me he thought she'd been there about two months.)
After all, how long do people in shelters usually go without contacting the outside world, without going to court for a TRO, without talking to police, lawyers, courts? How long do they go without attempting to find work or a place to live? How long do they hang around without identification and without attempting to obtain it.
I don't know the specifics of Bartell-Dimm's abduction of Danny Dimm's son. But those are questions the police need to ask. Because if a domestic violence shelter abetted or conspired with Bartell-Dimm, someone there needs to pay a price.
In that regard, Ed Wunsch told me about a case he worked on in which the police literally arrived at the front door of a DV shelter with a search warrant for a certain woman who'd abducted her child. Simultaneously, shelter personnel were escorting her out the back door with directions to another shelter in another state. That's criminal.
Meanwhile, Danny Dimm traveled 20 hours to get to his son and he's now looking forward to their reunion.
"When I actually see him again, it will really hit me," Danny Dimm said Wednesday. "I don't know for sure how I will react. It's been a long road...and it's sort of coming to end."
Let's hope so. Dimm's sister is coming from Toronto to be with him and Timber and apparently the whole community in which he lives has been following his case. Timber looks like he'll have a full plate when he gets back to British Columbia.
He has enrolled the 5-year-old in a British Columbia preschool and has him lined up for pottery classes and piano lessons. He's also been eyeing a dog for Timber.
Bartell-Dimm faces one felony count of depriving Danny of parental or custodial rights. The maximum penalty for that is two years in prison. She's in jail awaiting extradition now.
Needless to say, she needs to do some hard time. She's done the same thing twice to a boy who's mildly autistic. As I've said before, parental child abduction is child abuse, so Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm needs to be punished not only for what she did to Danny but for what she did to Timber.
Once she gets out, she should have at most supervised vistitation with the child. She's obviously a danger to him and has little respect for the orders courts make.
Still, all's well that ends well and Timber is now where he should have been all along - in the loving arms of his father.