Former Olympic Athlete Disappears with American Son in Brazil

Photo: Former Olympic Athlete Disappears with American Son in Brazil: American Kelvin Birotte Said His Wife Took Their Child to Brazil in 2006 and Never Returned

This weeks was supposed to have held a joyous reunion more than three years in the making.

But for a Houston father who has been fighting to get his American-born son back on U.S. soil, there has been only more heartache. One day after a Brazilian court ruled that his son be returned to the U.S., Kelvin Birotte's wife disappeared with 4-year-old Kelvin Birotte Jr., setting off an international manhunt.

Now, his wife's attorney in Brazil has vowed to file an appeal that could further tie up the court case while law enforcement searches for Kelvin Jr.

Birotte, a 43-year-old chef, has devoted the last three and a half years to bringing his son home after his wife, Olympic volleyball medalist Hilma Aparicida Caldeira, took the then-infant for a visit to her native Brazil and never returned.

On Monday, Birotte got the call he'd been waiting for telling him that the Brazilian court in Belo Horizonte had sided with him and ordered 4-year-old Kelvin Birotte Jr. be returned to the United States immediately.

"I was shocked," he said of the call from the U.S. State Department's Office for Children's Issues, which had been assisting him with the international abduction proceedings. "At first I had to sit down because my knees gave out. And then came the joy and tears."

But then, just tears. One day later, he received a second call that Caldeira had fled her home with their son.

"At this point I don't really know what state of mind she's in," Birotte said.

Instead of heading to Brazil to pick up his son, Birotte is now down there hoping Interpol and Brazilian authorities will find him safe. The U.S. quickly arranged for Birotte's expired visa to Brazil to be renewed and Brazilian authorities have arranged for a U.S. passport for Kelvin Jr.

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said in a statement to that his office was notified by the State Department of Caldeira's intent to appeal the court's ruling to send Kelvin back to the U.S.

"We have relayed this information to Mr. Birotte and will do everything we can to ensure a safe, expeditious reunion of father and son," Culberson said.

Birotte's case is eerily reminiscent of David Goldman's fight to regain custody of his young son Sean, who had been taken to Brazil by his mother and not returned. After years and wins and losses in the Brazilian court system and immense international pressure, Brazil released Sean to his father on Christmas Eve last year.

A State Department official told that while they could not comment on Birotte's case specifically, the agency has a history of working with the Brazil Central Authority to locate American children that disappear in that country.

The U.S. Embassy in Brazil was on holiday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Birotte's plight has exploded into a media firestorm in Brazil where Caldeira is a decorated volleyball player with more than 200 medals to her name, including Olympic bronze from the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Birotte said he's been told that her picture, his picture and images of their son have been splashed on the front page of every major newspaper and on television news.

"They already warned me that when I get off the plane the Brazil Central Authority is going to be there and the representative from the embassy along with security is going to be there," he said.

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