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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 4 - 10, 2003


Father and son plead not guilty in child custody case

Express Staff Writer

After entering not guilty pleas, a father and son charged in a bizarre international child abduction case were returned to their Blaine County jail cell Monday.

Stephen T. Snyder, 54, a former California resident, and Eli Snyder, 30, formerly of Ketchum, will remain in custody because they’re unable to make the $500,000 bonds placed on each of them.

Eli Snyder, center, formerly of Ketchum, talks to his attorney Keith Roark during an arraignment Monday in 5th District Court as his father, Stephen T. Snyder, 54, a former resident of California, listens. The two Snyders have been indicted on two counts each of child custody interference and aiding and abetting in connection with the disappearance of Lily Snyder, now 5. The girl disappeared from Ketchum two years ago. Express photo by Willy Cook

Both Snyders were indicted May 14 by a Blaine County grand jury on two counts each of child custody interference and aiding and abetting. If convicted, the Snyders each could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Fifth District Court Judge James J. May signed an authorization allowing defense attorneys—Brian Elkins representing Stephen Snyder and Keith Roark representing Eli Snyder—to obtain transcripts of the grand jury’s proceedings.

The next step for the Snyders is another court appearance June 30, when defense attorneys will make motions. Since the grand jury indictments preempt the need for a preliminary hearing, motions customarily attack the charges or the grand jury indictment as being flawed.

The arraignment Monday was over in less than 15 minutes.

After reading a long list of rights provided the Snyders, May asked if they understood.

"Yes, your Honor," Eli Snyder said.

"I do, your Honor," Stephen Snyder said.

Their not guilty pleas then were entered.

Both were handcuffed and dressed in bright orange cotton jail jump suits and slippers.

A date for a trial has not been set.

Lily, the daughter of Stephen Snyder and his estranged wife, Margot Thornton, was rescued by an anonymous, independent recovery team from the jungle in Costa Rica on April 11, where she’d been living with her half-brother and father for nearly two years. Policed say she had been abducted by Eli Snyder, a half-brother, in June 2001 following a planned visit from Ketchum to another half-brother, Forrest Snyder, who then lived in Eugene, Ore. He pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a kidnapping, and had promised to help locate Lily.

Thornton rushed to Costa Rica from her Eugene, Ore., home to regain custody of Lily, while the recovery team turned the Snyders over to Costa Rican police, who flew them to Miami and into the waiting arms of U.S. authorities.

They were returned to Blaine County in early May.

Lilly has returned with her mother to Oregon, where Lily has two half-siblings, Isa, 12, and Lars, 8.

In a telephone interview from her home, Thornton told The Mountain Express that Lily seemed unharmed and in fact had acquired proficiency in Spanish as well as a self-reliance in rugged jungle surroundings.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.