Police found Leo Zagaris walking home with father Nikolaos twenty months after the boy failed to return from a scheduled visit.
Leo was taken to the Ministry of Justice in nearby Athens and reunited with his mother. Alissa had been granted legal custody of Leo when the couple divorced in 2008, amidst allegations of domestic violence.
Mother and son have now flown back toIndiana. Alissa said:
“It was just relief and joy. I am overwhelmed. Honestly, I really haven’t stopped crying.”
Meanwhile, Leo remembered being confused when the police arrived, USA Today reports.
“The worst part was when I felt I was getting arrested. I was walking down the sidewalk with my father; we were just going to go down to our house. The police came out and just took us away. They drove us all the way over toAthens. I went into a room with a lady, and she explained what was happening. But my father went in to a different room.”
Nikolaos Zagaris has been charged with international kidnapping.
Leo had visited his father in Greece four times without a problem but his father failed to return him from the fifth visit in June 2011. When his mother contacted the US State Department for help, she was advised to make an application under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty which regulates the return of children abducted from one participating state into another.
Alissa now plans to help other parents whose children have been abducted into foreign countries.
“Today is the day I finally go from victim to advocate.”
Photo of Athens by Barcex via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence