VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - His daughter was missing for almost two years, and now his ex-wife has been charged with international parental abduction.
Like many families across the United States, Anthony Gentile shared custody of his two-year-old daughter, Amelia, with his ex-wife, Kathleen Shehadeh, who lived in Virginia Beach. He lives in Maryland.
Back in July 2018, Gentile said he spoke to his daughter on Skype and had plans to see his little girl the next day, but he said suddenly communication was cut off.
Soon after, he said he received a letter in the mail from his ex-wife making saying that she was moving out west and would let him know when they settled into their new home.
He said there was no update, and they disappeared. Month after month, he did not know where Amelia was and said the fear and concern were unbearable.
“The unknown in your own mind of just wondering if she, my daughter, is asking for me? If she remembers me; am I ever going to see her again?” said Gentile. “It plays a really crazy mental game. It's awful. It feels like you're being punched in the stomach repeatedly.”
Gentile said 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 said he wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who got the Maryland State Police involved.
He said soon after, the FBI got involved and they were able to figure out that his ex-wife had allegedly traveled to Spain.
Federal documents state that prosecutors believe that she traveled to Mexico City, Mexico; Colombia and then Madrid before ending up on a tiny island of the coast of Spain.
Gentile said he also hired a private investigator from Spain. He said it was expensive and nerve-racking to place trust into someone who was located in a different country.
But he said the private investigator was professional and eventually got him concrete answers.
“This was literally going to be my final attempt because it's expensive and I’ve exhausted all my resources at this point,” said Gentile.
He said when COVID-19 hit, it slowed down the entire process.
By then, Amelia had been missing for almost two years.
“There was always that piece of you thinking in the back of my mind that I’m never going to see my kid again,” said Gentile.
But he got news from the private investigator that they found his daughter and her mom.
He said he was overcome with emotion when he got pictures of his daughter after she was missing for so long.
He said dealing with foreign laws and authorities can be extremely difficult.
But Gentile was eventually able to fly over to Spain to get his daughter. The two were reunited and flew back to the United States.
Meanwhile, Shehadeh was arrested for international parental kidnapping. She is currently out on $10,000 bond.
News 3 spoke to her defense attorney, James Broccoletti, who said he would not get into the specifics of the case. However, he did say there was no extradition order from Spain for her.
Broccoletti said Shehadeh was arrested in Spain and bonded out. Then, she voluntarily surrendered herself to U.S. authorities.
He said she boarded a plane and flew to Madrid before flying to the U.S, where she was taken into custody and brought back to Eastern Virginia.
“She voluntarily returned. She voluntarily surrendered. She wants to resolve this issue. She wants to move forward. She wants to put this matter behind her and get on with her life,” said Broccoletti.
Gentile said Amelia is about to turn 5 years old. He said she is happy, healthy and back home with him and is also excited to be a big sister.
Gentile said he remarried, and the couple just had another baby.
“I was determined one way or the other - no matter how hard and stressful this was - to find my daughter,” said Gentile.
He said fathers sometimes get the short end of the stick and encouraged people in his position to not give up.