NORFOLK, Va. – A former Virginia Beach woman was sentenced Friday to two years in prison for international parental kidnapping.
News 3 investigative reporter Margaret Kavanagh spoke to the ex-husband of 32-year-old Kathleen Shehadeh, Anthony Gentile, after Shehadeh pleaded guilty in August 2021.
Shehadeh and Gentile had joint custody of their daughter, Amelia, who spent time with both parents based on a court-ordered schedule.
Unbeknownst to Gentile, Shehadeh applied for and was granted a New Zealand passport for their daughter. In July 2018, Shehadeh took the then-2-year-old and fled Virginia Beach.
They first went to Mexico City, Mexico, then Shehadeh then took the girl to Bogota, Columbia. Finally, Shehadeh took her to Spain.
Shehadeh wrote a letter to Gentile, who lives in Maryland, in which she falsely stated that she and Amelia were moving out west and would let him know the exact address once they were settled. Gentile did not hear from Shehadeh or know where his daughter was for more than two years.
“It was completely awful just literally not knowing where my daughter was, if she was alive, safe or anything like that. My mind was just in this complete cloud,” Gentile said.
He told News 3 for months, he called authorities and politicians, and eventually the FBI got involved. He said at first, there were issues about whose jurisdiction the case was in. He told us he wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who got the Maryland State Police involved.
Finally, in August 2020, Gentile tracked Shehadeh and his daughter to Tenerife, Spain, and was able to reunite and come back to the United States with Amelia.
Shehadeh was arrested by the Spanish authorities on a federal warrant and eventually waived extradition to return to the United States and face the charge.
Gentile said he is glad his ex-wife is facing prison time.
“I'm still always going to be looking over my shoulder when that time comes because I’ll never be able to trust her, believe her or anything like that, so I’m always going to have some sort of fear in the back of my mind for my daughter's safety,” said Gentile.
Shehadeh is currently being held in the Western Tidewater Regional Jail.
Her attorney, James Broccoletti, issued the following statement on her behalf:
Kathleen is extremely remorseful for the actions that she took that caused her daughter and her ex-husband such pain. At the time, she had a misguided belief into what she was doing was right and necessary to protect her daughter. After her voluntary extradition from Spain she began counseling which continued up through the day of her sentencing which caused her to see things in a different light and caused her to recognize the error of her ways and how misguided, her actions were. Unfortunately, she will pay for this for the rest of hers and her daughter’s life and for that she’s extremely, extremely regretful.