Non-custodial mother turns self in after abducting 8-year-old girl

A Pauls Valley 8-year-old girl was found safe in Illinois after her mother turned herself in to authorities. 

Jessica Smithers and the father of Cienna Colungo shared joint custody of the girl until July, when the custodial agreement was terminated in Murray County, and the father was granted sole physical custody of the child. The mother reportedly had only supervised visitation rights.

On Sunday, Smithers showed up unexpectedly to a birthday party, and when guests entered the back yard, they soon realized that Cienna was no longer with them.

Police began looking for the child, but it wasn't until early the next morning that Cienna was discovered unharmed when her mother turned herself in to authorities at the police department in Vandalia, Illinois. It is believed that Smithers had planned on taking the child to Pennsylvania, where the mother currently resides, but changed her mind after realizing that police were looking for her.

Smithers was arrested in Illinois and held on a complaint of violating a child custody order. She is expected to be transported to Garvin County, where she will likely face a kidnapping charge.

Child abductions as we see them in the movies and pop culture--when a child is lured or snatched by a stranger--are actually quite rare. 

According to the Polly Klaas Foundation, of the thousands of children who go missing each year, only about 100--a fraction of 1 percent--are abducted by strangers.

As many as 90 percent of missing children have not been abducted at all--they are lost, they have miscommunicated their plans or misunderstood directions, or they have run away. 

Of the missing children who have been abducted, those taken by noncustodial parents or family members comprise the largest group--approximately 9 percent of missing children are taken by family members. 

The next largest group, comprising only 3 percent, are children who are kidnapped by someone known to them. 

The good news is that of all reported missing children, the overwhelming majority come home--as many as 99.8 percent. Even those abducted by strangers have a nearly 50/50 chance of making it home alive. About half of the 100 children taken by strangers each year are reunited with their parents. Of the roughly 50 children who are killed in stranger abductions each year, 74 percent are dead within the first three hours, making it imperative to find and recover these children as quickly as possible.

Learn about Oklahoma kidnapping laws or call (405)418-8888 to schedule a free, confidential case review by an Oklahoma defense lawyer.

Image credit: Tony Webster

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