| Mom in custody case gets probation
By Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain NewsA Westminster, Colorado mother who fled with her daughter to Costa Rica in violation of a custody agreement was sentenced to five years of probation Wednesday. Barbara Vigil took her daughter in April 2001, claiming she feared her child was at risk for sexual abuse at the hands of her father, who had won custody of the child in a bitter divorce.
Vigil worked as a teacher in Costa Rica for nearly a year before authorities arrived at her door to take the child back to her father, Russ McCallian, in April 2001.
McCallian was barred from speaking at the sentencing hearing because the judge said he was not a victim of the crimes of which Vigil was convicted.
Vigil was convicted on four felony counts of falsifying documents and criminal impersonation, making the state and the woman whose identity she used the crime victims, said Jefferson County District Judge James Zimmerman. Vigil was acquitted on other charges, such as violating a custody agreement, because the jury was convinced that she believed her child was in danger.
Vigil made no statement at the hearing.
Defense attorney Alan Rosenfeld called the case “a family tragedy.” He said Vigil already has been punished by spending a year in jail before her trial, her conviction on federal passport violations and being barred from seeing her two children. “She and her family have been punished enormously,” he said.
The judge warned Vigil that she would face a prison sentence if she does not comply with conditions of probation and court orders in the domestic relations case concerning her daughter and a son by a previous relationship.
Zimmerman said he found Vigil’s lack of remorse “appalling and highly distressing,” especially because of the effects her actions had on the friend whose identity she stole.
“This is about as scheming and calculated an offense as I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Vigil also must pay extradition costs of $6,138 and her daughter’s therapy costs of $3,750.
Vigil faces another court battle to see her children. McCallian is trying to get custody of her son and has filed a lawsuit against Vigil, her family and friends who allegedly helped her flee to Costa Rica.
“The evidence in the case overwhelmingly showed what a sociopathic batterer he was,” Rosenfeld said. “He continues to use the courts to get what he wants, to get money and to control and abuse Barbara.”
McCallian declined comment after the hearing.