Aviano airman battles Italians to get kids back
PORDENONE, Italy — An Italian lawyer says local authorities have essentially kidnapped the two daughters of an Aviano Air Force staff sergeant, breaking a number of international treaties in the process.
Francesco Furlan, who represents Kris Wylie, said the two girls were taken from his client’s home on Oct. 12 while she was deployed to Bulgaria.
Since then, she’s been allowed to see the girls, ages 5 and 7, for one hour once a week and during a Thanksgiving Day visit at a neutral site.
Monica Carraturo, a prosecutor in Pordenone, said she did not have permission to talk about the case and referred questions to the chief prosecutor in the province. But his secretary would not schedule an interview with him, or even release his name.
Authorities allege the girls were abused by Wylie’s Italian fiance, Santo Petron. He has been charged with child abuse, Furlan said, and Wylie has been charged with acting as an accomplice.
Furlan, who also represents Petron, said neither has done anything wrong.
“There is no evidence the girls have been beaten or abused or anything,” he said during a recent interview in his office. “If there were even a hint of any abuse, I would be the first to say something needs to be done.”
Furlan said a thorough investigation by base officials at Aviano when the charges were first raised in August determined the same thing.
Base officials won’t confirm that there was an investigation, citing confidentiality. Tech. Sgt. Michael O’Connor, a base spokesman, said Wylie — who declined requests to be interviewed for this story — had properly assigned Petron power of attorney while she was deployed. The base is paying for her attorney but has not been involved in any legal matters, he said.
Furlan said Wylie was deployed to the States for training when the charges were brought forward by the couple’s neighbors in August. He said carabinieri officers went to the home in Casarsa and took the two girls, turning them over to base authorities. After a base investigation found only a few bruises on each girl’s legs — which Furlan said could have resulted from normal outdoor play — and no evidence of abuse, the family was reunited.
Wylie deployed to Bulgaria in October and authorities went to her house again and took the children into protective custody, Furlan said.
Petron admits to spanking the girls one time when they refused to do their homework. Furlan said one of the few transcripts he’s been able to see of the girls’ testimony to local authorities confirms that the 7-year-old said she had been spanked one time.
A child psychologist was appointed by a court in Pordenone to see if the girls were capable of testifying about their situation. That report should be turned over early next week.
“How can the Italian government take away two American girls without informing the (U.S.) Embassy or the military command?” he asked. Such a move, he said, violates status of forces agreements between the two countries.
Phone calls requesting information from the U.S. Embassy in Rome were not returned.
Furlan said although the girls speak some Italian and have attended Italian schools, they are U.S. citizens. They are currently living with an Italian foster family in Portogruaro, but Furlan says neither he nor his client knows their exact whereabouts.
Authorities also have displayed an ignorance of the lives of U.S. servicemembers living in Europe, he said.
“They say the fact that Sgt. Wylie is abandoning them in the care of others means that she is an unfit mother,” he said. “She is in the military. She has to go places. That is her job.”
Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.