WEST COVINA, Calif. – A mother accused of taking the grandchildren of U.S. Rep. Gary Miller and fleeing to Mexico vowed to fight the case against her.
"We're not running anywhere. We're going to stay and fight," Jennifer Dejongh told the Pasadena Star-News (http://bit.ly/nuF9GT ) in a story published Thursday.
Dejongh was arrested in Mexico last week, nearly four years after she disappeared with her second husband George Dejongh and the three boys she had with Miller's son.
Jennifer Dejongh was locked in a custody dispute with Brian Miller and said she decided to flee hours after signing papers granting temporary custody of the children to the congressman and his wife.
She was supposed to drop the boys at the Millers' house in November 2007 as part of a court order, but she never showed up.
Instead, she said she took some cash and bought a cheap car in Whittier.
"We didn't know where we were going. We just started to drive," she told the newspaper.
George Dejongh said he couldn't let his new bride travel alone with young children, so he went along.
The couple said they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Tijuana and awoke the next day to see news of their disappearance on television.
"I had no idea it was going to be so big," she said.
The couple said they moved to Aguascalientes in central Mexico, took on the last name O'Neil, changed the boys' first names and carved out a new life where Jennifer taught English and George played for the town's professional basketball team and gambled.
In 2008, she wrote a letter to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Star-News claiming she was protecting her children from an abusive father who molested them.
Don Haslam, an attorney for Gary Miller and his son, said Dejongh made the same claims during the custody battle and nobody involved in the case substantiated her allegations.
The congressman represents California's 42nd Congressional District, including the communities of Diamond Bar, Brea, Chino and Chino Hills.
The Dejonghs' life in Mexico went undetected until several months ago when they moved to the border town of Mexicali with the boys and their newborn daughter. There, they had a run-in with a Mexican customs official who discovered their identities.
Authorities eventually tracked them to a house and walked in through the front door as they were just starting to eat dinner. They were taken to Tijuana, escorted across the border and turned over a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.
The boys — one who is now 12 and a set of twins who are 10 — were turned over to child protective services, Jennifer Dejongh was taken to jail, and the baby girl stayed with her father.
Dejongh pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of child custody deprivation and has since posted bail. She is set to return to court Wednesday.
"I love my boys, and I think about them every second of every day," she said. "I can't wait to be with them again."