He was detained on suspicion of attempted kidnapping and released more than two weeks later without being formally indicted.
"If there were some other remedy there could be some other rational decision," he said. "But as a father, from my perspective, it was the only rational thing to do."
Others hold out hope that one day, their children will come looking for them.
Walter Benda's daughters were abducted more than 15 years ago. Now adults in their early 20's, the girls have not yet reached out to their father. But he's waiting.
In 15 years, he said, the State Department has conducted just four welfare visits. The last time he saw his children, he got a glimpse of his older daughter in 2005 as he stood on the street in Japan in an attempt to talk to her. As he approached, she took off running.
"I know they're totally set against me now. They've just heard the mothers' side of the story, never got a chance to talk to them in 15 years," he said.
"Ultimately I'm a hopeful person and I do think eventually as they grow older they're going to seek me out," he said. "What I've told a lot of other parents is that what you really want to look for is to be an important part of your child's life when they are adult."
It's a future Michael Elias, the former U.S. marine, refuses to accept.
"I'll never stop," he said. "I mean my kids could be gone for 20, 30 years and I'll be an old man, but I'll still never stop."