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Virginia mother pleads guilty to abduction; father says unknowing played 'crazy mental game'

Anthony Gentile: 'It plays a really crazy mental game. It's awful. It feels like you're being punched in the stomach repeatedly.'
Anthony Gentile.PNG
Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 17:13:26-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A Virginia Beach mother pleaded guilty to international parental abduction in federal court on Friday.

Kathleen Shehadeh, who appeared in front of a judge and admitted wrongdoing, declined to comment to WTKR.

Anthony Gentile said his daughter was missing for almost two years after his ex-wife made off with her.

Like many families across the United States, Gentile shared custody of his 2-year-old daughter, Amelia, with his ex-wife, Shehadeh, who lived in Virginia Beach. He lives in Maryland.

Back in July 2018, Gentile said he spoke to his daughter on Skype and had plans to see his little girl the next day, but he said communication was suddenly cut off.

Soon after, he said he received a letter in the mail from his ex-wife saying that she was moving out west and would let him know when they settled into their new home.

He said there was no update, and they disappeared.

Month after month, he did not know where Amelia was and said the fear and concern were unbearable.

“The unknown in your own mind of just wondering if she, my daughter, is asking for me? If she remembers me; am I ever going to see her again?” said Gentile. “It plays a really crazy mental game. It's awful. It feels like you're being punched in the stomach repeatedly.”

Gentile said for months he called authorities and politicians, and eventually the FBI got involved. He said at first, there were issues about whose jurisdiction the case was in. He said he wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who got the Maryland State Police involved.

He said soon after, the FBI got involved and they were able to figure out that his ex-wife had allegedly traveled to Spain.

Federal documents state that prosecutors believe that she traveled to Mexico City, Mexico; Colombia and then Madrid before ending up on a tiny island of the coast of Spain.

Gentile said he also hired a private investigator from Spain for $10,000. He said it was expensive and nerve-racking to place trust into someone who was located in a different country.

But he said the private investigator was professional and eventually got him concrete answers.

“This was literally going to be my final attempt because it's expensive and I’ve exhausted all my resources at this point,” said Gentile.

He said when COVID-19 hit, it slowed down the entire process. By then, Amelia had been missing for almost two years.

“There was always that piece of you thinking in the back of my mind that I’m never going to see my kid again,” said Gentile.

But he got news from the private investigator that they found his daughter and her mom.

Gentile said he was overcome with emotion when he got pictures of his daughter after she was missing for so long.

He said dealing with foreign laws and authorities can be extremely difficult, but he was eventually able to fly over to Spain to get his daughter. The two were reunited and flew back to the United States.

News 3 spoke to her defense attorney, James Broccoletti, several months ago, and he said he would not get into the specifics of the case. However, he did say there was no extradition order from Spain for her.

Broccoletti said Shehadeh was arrested in Spain and bonded out. Then, she voluntarily surrendered herself to U.S. authorities.

He said she boarded a plane and flew to Madrid before flying to the U.S., where she was taken into custody and brought back to Eastern Virginia.

“She voluntarily returned. She voluntarily surrendered. She wants to resolve this issue. She wants to move forward. She wants to put this matter behind her and get on with her life,” said Broccoletti.

Shehadeh is currently out on bond and will be sentenced January 7.