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For the week of July 23 - 29, 2003


State asks ‘no contact’ in kidnapping case

Snyders’ letters to Lily prompts action

Express Staff Writer

The state of Idaho is seeking to sever contact between the alleged kidnappers and their victim in a bizarre international child abduction case being played out in 5th District Court in Hailey.

At issue are letters that were written by Stephen T. and Eli Snyder to Lily Snyder, Stephen’s daughter and Eli’s half sister. Stephen and Eli Snyder are on trial for allegedly kidnapping Lily and hiding out in the rain forests of Costa Rica.

Eli Snyder is charged with conspiracy to commit child custody interference and child custody interference, both felonies. Stephen Snyder is charged with conspiracy to commit child custody interference and aiding and abetting child custody interference, both felonies.

At a hearing on Monday, July 21, 5th District Judge James May issued a temporary "no contact order" and scheduled another hearing for July 29 at 9 a.m. The temporary order is pending the results of the Tuesday, July 29, hearing.

In an affidavit in support of his motion, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said the letters in question were written by Stephen and Eli Snyder from the Blaine County jail to the Lane County Child Advocacy Center in Eugene, Ore., which interviewed Lily when she was returned to her mother.

The letters are addressed to Lily, care of the Child Advocacy Center’s director. Upon receiving the letters, the director forwarded the letters on to Oregon police officers, who passed the information on to Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman, Thomas said.

"…These letters are addressed to Lily Snyder who is only 6 years old, and due to her tender age is obviously very impressionable while being the key witness against both defendants," Thomas wrote in the affidavit.

In court, he elaborated:

"This is a witness and a victim who is going to be testifying against her father and her brother," he said. "This puts undue pressure on her as to whether she was at fault for what happened, and it’s not. It’s these two gentlemen who chose to abduct her."

Stephen Snyder’s attorney, Brian Elkins, said there are things in the affidavit that "we strongly take issue with."

"I strenuously oppose entering in an order today," he said, pointing out that Eli Snyder’s attorney, Keith Roark, was not able to attend the hearing.

Elkins also pointed out that Stephen Snyder is already subject to a court order restraining him from "intimidating, molesting, interfering or menacing" his estranged wife, Margot Thornton, or any children in her custody. Lily is in Thornton’s custody.

"According to the terms of the order, there is nothing to prevent Mr. Snyder from contacting his daughter, Lily June Snyder, so long as he does not intimidate, molest, interfere or menace her," Elkins wrote. "Accordingly, Mr. Snyder should be free to send correspondence to his daughter so long as it does not violate the divorce court order."

However, Thomas insisted in his affidavit that the court exercise an extra degree of caution to ensure that Lily, the person, and Lily, the witness, is protected

"… Contact by either defendant or third party on their behalf could be detrimental to the psychological well being of Lily Snyder and may result in a gross miscarriage of justice by allowing the defendants to poison the mind of the state’s key witness and victim," he wrote.

"… Due to the tender age of Lily Snyder, the state respectfully requests this No Contact Order to insure fairness to the state of Idaho and minimize the harmful and possibly lasting effects of the abduction, kidnapping and lengthy trial proceedings in this criminal matter."

Thomas said it is customary in assault or rape cases to sever contact between defendants and victims.

"In any other case, there is no question that the alleged defendant would not be allowed to contact the victim," Thomas said.

Lily, the daughter of Stephen Snyder and his estranged wife, Margot Thornton, was rescued by an anonymous, independent recovery team from the rain forests of Costa Rica on April 11, where she’d been living with her half-brother and father for nearly two years. Police 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.

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 at Blaine County’s expense.

Lily has returned with her mother to Oregon, where she 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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