Dad Has Emotional Reunion With Daughter While 'Abducted' Mom Stays in Jail

Bonnie Sweeten's ex says she "lost it a little bit" after fleeing with daughter.

May 27, 2009, 12:31 PM

May 28, 2009 — -- The ex-husband of a Philadephia woman who faked her abduction and fled to Disney World with their daughter had a tearful reunion today with the little girl who was upset that her mom had to stay in jail.

Anthony Rakoczy arrived in Florida to take custody of 9-year-old Julia Rakoczy one day after she and her mother, Bonnie Sweeten, were stopped by police at their Disney World hotel.

At an emotional family reunion in a police office at the Orlando International Airport, Julia broke into tears as her sister Paige ran to hug her, followed by their father.

"I feel great that I have my daughter back, but I feel bad for her mother," Anthony Rakoczy told "Good Morning America" shortly after talking to his daughter on the phone before he arrived at the Orange County Detention Center to pick her up.

"You know when you first get a call like that [on the alleged abduction], the first thing you think of [is]: Will I see this kid again? [I'm] one of the lucky ones," he said.

Watch the emotional reunion Friday at 7 a.m. on "Good Morning America."

Department spokesman Jim Solomons said Julia is "very concerned" for her mother after seeing her arrested at their hotel in Disney World.

Sweeten will be returning to Philadelphia later with a police escort when she is extradited on charges of making a false report and identity theft for what authorities describe as an abduction hoax that may stem from an investigation into whether she stole $300,000 from a former employer.

Police believe Sweeten will not attempt to resist extradition and she is scheduled to appear in court Friday morning, Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Williamson said.

Rakoczy was stunned by his ex-wife's actions, but told "Good Morning America" that Sweeten has always been a good mother with many friends.

"I just think she just kind of lost it a little bit," he said. "I've known this woman for a long time and she's always been very together. ... I just want to say Bonnie is a great mom and whatever happened is not Bonnie."

"Good Morning America" flew Rackoczy down to Florida to be reunited with his daughter, and flew father and daughter back home Thursday.

"I just want to move forward like normal, everyday," Rakoczy said. "Back to school, back to work. Put this behind us."

Sweeten recently had told a friend that she was feeling suicidal, investigators said, and friends and relatives noted she was scared in the days prior to her disappearance.

She vanished with Julia on Tuesday after calling 911 to say she'd been abducted by two black men and stuffed into the trunk of a car after a minor accident.

But Sweeten actually booked a flight out of the Philadelphia airport using a former co-worker's driver's license and flew with Julia to Orlando to visit Disney World, law enforcement officials told ABC News.

Police have told ABC News that Sweeten appears to have taken about $12,000 from various bank accounts in the days before her disappearance.

She is expected to be returned to Pennsylvania in the next few days.

"Hopefully one day we'll look back on this like nothing ever happened," Rakoczy said.

Before today's reunion, Rakoczy said he had spoken to Julia and that she seemed to be holding up well, despite having to spend the night with strangers while her mother was in jail.

"She sounded good," he said. "A little upset."

Rakoczy said the worst part of the entire ordeal was considering the possibility that he may never have seen his daughter again.

"When something like this happens, you never know if you're going to hear that voice again," he said. "I was just absolutely elated to hear that voice again."

Julia is the younger of his two children with Sweeten. Their other daughter, Paige, is 15. Rakoczy said he would like for Julia to eventually be able to go back to her old life with her mother, once Sweeten gets some help.

"I would never do anything to not let these kids be in her life like they were before," he said.

Domestic, Financial Problems Behind Disappearance?

Michelle Henry, the district attorney in Bucks County, Pa., where Sweeten lives with her second husband, Larry Sweeten, and her three children, said Sweeten's initial description of her attackers has not sat well with some people.

Law enforcement officials knew very early on that some suspicious details just didn't add up. Their hunch was bolstered when Sweeten's SUV was found with no evidence of damage.

As for a motive, Henry said investigators are still trying to piece together the entire story.

"We do believe it could have been domestic problems with her husband as well as financial problems," she said.

The priority all along, Henry said, was making sure that 9-year-old Julia was safe and returned to her family.

"This is a case that's unusual in a sense that she makes this very serious report of kidnapping," Henry said, noting that the hunt for Sweeten and her daughter involved everyone from FBI to Disney World security. "Because of that it does have some bizarre twists."

In all, Sweeten made seven calls to 911 claiming that both she and her daughter had been struck by another car before being put into the trunk.

She also placed a call her to her husband cell phone and left a tearful voicemail, describing the carjacking and how she feared for her life. On the message she told her husband she loved him and asked him to tell the children she loved them if she didn't see them again.

Larry Sweeten said he's in shock.

"This has taken me by quite a surprise," he said. "I just want her to know she has tons of support."

Her employer told "Good Morning America" that Sweeten had seemed to come unhinged in recent days.

Police Skeptical of Abduction Tale From the Beginning

According to court documents, Sweeten used former co-worker Jillian Jenkinson's driver's license when she bought airline tickets to Orlando after reporting the abduction. She obtained the license on Tuesday by telling Jenkinson that she needed to photocopy it in order to roll over Jenkinson's 401(k) account. Jenkinson expected to get her license back later that day.

As the investigation developed, investigators became increasingly skeptical of her abduction tale, which was told against the backdrop of a probe into Sweeten's alleged involvement in the theft of about $300,000 from her former employer, an attorney in Upper Makefield Township, sources close to the investigation told ABC News.

One of the first pieces of information that called her version of events into doubt was the fact that cell phone records indicated that her frantic call to 911 dispatchers reporting her kidnapping in Bucks County originated from a location in Philadelphia's Center City neighborhood, and not from a suburb 25 miles away where she lived.

Then an airport video was discovered that allegedly showed her boarding a plane for Orlando at about 3 p.m., a little more than an hour after she reported being abducted.

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