Kidnapper Mom Genevieve Kelley

For Love or Vengeance?

Genevieve Kelley seemingly had it all: A family practitioner with a successful medical practice, the 39-year-old was newly remarried and starting a new life in an idyllic mountainous region in northern New Hampshire. She and her new husband, Scott, a special- education teacher, were raising her daughter Mary Nunes together and planning on having more children soon.

Then her world came crashing down. When Mary was 7, Genevieve says, her daughter began showing shocking changes in behavior: hiding under tables, urinating and defecating on the floor, sleeping in her closet and pleading for her mother to lock every window in the house. Finally, says Genevieve, Mary told her that her biological father was abusing her. After authorities investigated and did not file charges, Genevieve says she felt she had no choice. In late 2004 she and Scott took Mary and boarded a plane to Canada and then fled to Central America, where they spent the next 10 years living as fugitives. “A job, house, car, career—what is more important than your child’s life? Nothing,” says Genevieve. “I couldn’t have done anything differently.”

Whether a jury of her peers will agree—or will decide she was just a mother hell-bent on keeping her daughter away from her ex- husband—remains to be seen. After 10 years on the run, Genevieve walked into the Coos County, N.H., Sheriff’s Department on Nov. 17, 2014, and turned herself in to face charges of custodial interference and witness tampering in Mary’s 2004 disappearance. If convicted she could face more than 20 years in prison. Says Deputy U.S. Marshal Jamie Berry: “There are still a lot of questions surrounding where they’ve been for the last 10 years.”

Now released on bail and living in New Hampshire with family and the 10-year-old son she had with Scott, Genevieve, now 51, is preparing to stand trial in September. Scott, 50, faces charges of his own: After turning himself in to the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica on April 13, he was also charged with custodial interference and witness tampering and remains in jail in New Hampshire. Mary, now 19, is living in an undisclosed location and is barred from communicating with her mother and stepfather while the case heads to trial.

The day before Scott and Mary walked into the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica to reveal their identities as a wanted man and a missing person, they sat down with PEOPLE and shared their story in an exclusive interview. “I’m here because I wanted to save Mary,” says Scott, who met the child he calls his daughter when she was just 2. “I wanted her to live a normal life and not be abused. She needed me.”

For her part, Mary maintains her claim that her biological father abused her, and she credits her mother and stepfather with rescuing her. (Dr. Mark Nunes, 52, a physician for pediatric genetics based in Carlsbad, Calif., who has remarried and has other children, has always maintained his innocence. He declined to comment on Mary’s accusations.) “I feel bad, because they shouldn’t be arrested, but I’m grateful for what they did for me,” Mary says of Genevieve and Scott. “They didn’t do anything wrong. They only protected me.”

Mary says she always knew that they would return to the U.S. as a family when she was old enough to refuse visits with her father. But the return has been difficult, mainly because of the forced separation from her family. “The first thing I want to do is see my grandparents,” she says. She also wants to see her younger brother John, who was born in 2005 in Honduras. He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and returned with Genevieve so he could receive specialized medical care. (Since they returned, doctors have determined he doesn’t have the genetic disorder, which Genevieve calls “a miracle.”) And Mary cannot wait to reunite with her mother. “She took me out of the country to help me,” she says. “I’m going to thank her for everything.”

According to court documents, Mary has been diagnosed with both autism and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and since age 4 she has worked with psychologists. As an adult, she says she plans on filing a restraining order against her biological father. She also wants to legally change her last name to Kelley. “He sexually abused me,” she says matter-of-factly of her father, whom she refuses to identify by name. “I was little, and I didn’t know how to defend myself.”

Genevieve San Martin met Mark Nunes while they were physicians in the Air Force stationed at Travis AFB in California. They were married in 1991, but the relationship quickly deteriorated. “We had marriage problems from the beginning,” says Genevieve. On Feb. 19, 1996, after a heated argument about finances, a pregnant Genevieve suffered fetal distress, according to court records, and Mary was born two months premature. Almost two years later the couple divorced—Mark was already living in Mississippi, and Genevieve moved to be near her family in Whitefield, N.H. She obtained a restraining order against Mark due to alleged domestic violence and was awarded sole legal custody of Mary. For seven years Mark had monthly visits with his daughter. As Mary grew older, Genevieve says, she grew more resistant to them. “Mary would cry and scream and cling and never wanted to go to him,” Genevieve says. “We had to force her to go.”

In 2003, with Mary’s behavior becoming increasingly troubled, Genevieve says she was talking to her daughter on the way home from gymnastics class about an upcoming trip with her father when Mary had an emotional breakdown. “And then it hit me,” Genevieve says. “I just got this insight. I said, ‘Mary, what’s wrong?’ ” It was in that moment that Genevieve says her daughter told her that her father had touched her inappropriately. Says Genevieve: “A lightbulb went on.”

Mary’s visitations with her father were halted while the Division of Children, Youth and Families launched an investigation and therapists evaluated Mary’s behavior. When multiple therapists did not agree on a diagnosis—one therapist wrote that Genevieve was coaching her daughter’s abuse memories, and another that Mary’s accusations were believable—and authorities did not find evidence to charge Mark with abuse, Genevieve, who had moved from New Hampshire to Colorado, was ordered by the court to put Mary into an inpatient program at Spurwink Services in Portland, Maine, for evaluation. But Genevieve balked and made the fateful decision to flee. Scott agreed to go along. “It was seriously better than sitting there and watching my child go to pieces,”Genevieve says.

Leaving everything behind, the family of three fled to Central America, where they tried to live normal lives under the radar of the authorities. Genevieve and Scott’s son John was born in Honduras, where the couple worked as teachers. But after a military coup in that country, the Kelleys fled again. “I had a panic attack because I heard a helicopter,” Scott recalls about the early years in Honduras. “It had blue lights on it, and I’m like, ‘Is this for me?’ ” They landed in Costa Rica, where they made connections with neighbors, and Scott began teaching at a local school. “It wasn’t easy, but we helped each other get through it,” Scott says. Adds Genevieve: “What’s really hard is you can’t tell anybody anything. You just can’t. And so it’s really lonely.”

Back in the U.S., Mark searched for Mary for years—hiring a private investigator and even uploading videos to YouTube in which he implored his daughter to phone home. The videos have since been made private, but last month, after Mary—who loved riding horses and had a horse of her own named Snippy—returned to the U.S., he made a video with Stolen Horse International, an organization that specializes in recovering lost, stolen or missing equines. In it he once again makes a plea to Mary: “You know that we love you very much, and we remain very, very concerned about your safety and your well-being,” he says. “You don’t have to depend on the people that you are with right now.”

While Genevieve prepares for her upcoming trial, she says she’s at peace with the choices she’s made for Mary. Her daughter, she says, can make her own choices now, even if that means choosing to see her father. “She’s going to have scars, and she has healing [to do], but I feel confident that whatever decisions she makes, she’ll be okay,” Genevieve says. “I don’t have to protect her anymore.”

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