PAXTON – From Canada to Central America – and with the reported help of television show host Dr. Phil McGraw – two daughters of a former Ford County deputy who had been missing for nearly a year are now with their mother, and their father faces charges of child abduction.
Michael Hari, 34, was arraigned Tuesday morning on charges of child abduction and interference with visitation rights.
His daughters, Allene and Mollie, were reunited over the weekend with their mother, Michele Frakes, in Miami, Fla., according to Ford County Sheriff's Lt. Patrick Duffy.
"Everybody is back safe and healthy," Duffy said Tuesday. "They are slowly adjusting to being back in a different way of life."
A warrant for Hari's arrest had been issued in April 2005 after he disappeared with the girls.
Hari had been a Ford County sheriff's deputy for 18 months and had owned a gun store in Paxton. He ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the sheriff's position in 1998.
Frakes said in an interview last year that she and Hari had been married for a decade and that their divorce was final in 2001 and she was given custody of the children.
She said Hari had visitation rights with the girls, who had gone to be with him March 28, 2005, and were supposed to return April 1, 2005.
Her ex-husband called to say he was running late and then never showed up, she said. She then reported the girls as missing.
Hari had been featured on "America's Most Wanted," Court TV and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Duffy said authorities, including the U.S. Marshal's Office, tracked Hari to Canada and then to a religious colony in Minnesota.
"Dr. Phil decided to look and hired a private investigator," Duffy said.
That investigator, Harold Copus, a former FBI special agent, had previously worked with the television host to find missing children, he said. The private investigator met with Ford County officials and then talked with the leader of the religious colony in Minnesota.
"He said, 'You might try looking in Belize,'" according to Duffy. "They located him in a jungle in Belize. They had carved out a religious colony on 2,000 acres in the jungle."
Copus contacted the Belize colony leaders and, with them and Hari, negotiated Hari's return with the girls, Duffy said. Dr. Phil's staff was in Miami to tape the reunion, the lieutenant said.
The private detective had "far more resources than anybody locally would have," Duffy said.
Unfortunately, missing children can not always be a top priority for local investigators, because of their caseloads and limited manpower and available time to chase leads, he said.
"They should take precedence," Duffy said. "Hopefully, the publicity in this case will help change that."
Duffy said the Dr. Phil show plans to run a three-part series on the Hari case, but a spokesman for the show, Chandler Hayes, said he couldn't comment on plans for an upcoming show. Hayes said he would notify the local media when the show is scheduled to air.
According to Duffy, the show had wanted Michael Hari to appear, along with the girls and their mother, for one of the episodes, but Hari was served with an order of protection from Peoria County preventing him from being near the girls. The mother now lives there.
Ford County Judge Steve Pacey refused to allow Hari to be released on recognizance and set bond at $5,000. The judge, however, granted a motion by Hari's defense attorney, Neill Schurter, and allowed Hari to go to Indiana to be with a church group there pending further court proceedings.
Hari is due to return to court in Ford County on April 11. He is also scheduled to appear in Peoria County on a hearing for an order of protection, according to Duffy.