A Juneau mom who disappeared with her 2-year-old daughter in the middle of a heated custody battle last summer was found in southern California on Wednesday and arrested for custodial interference, according to law enforcement officials and those familiar with the situation.
The U.S. Marshals Service for the District of Alaska announced Thursday they had arrested 27-year-old Jessica Lauren Rodriguez, who also goes by her maiden name of Barranco, in Temecula, Califorinia. Temecula is a city of about 105,000 in Riverside County, situated between San Diego and Los Angeles.
Rodriguez was booked at a county facility there and will later be transferred to Juneau to answer for the two felony interference charges, according to a news release. The agency said the child has since been reunited with her father.
Juneau Superior Court documents show that Rodriguez ran from the state of Alaska with her daughter while she had custody. A Juneau magistrate gave temporary custody to the father about a month later after finding she had violated repeated court orders, such as refusing to grant him visitation rights. The father was granted full custody in December 2013 while Rodriguez was still on the lam.
“They had dueling (domestic violence) protective orders,” Blaine Hollis, the attorney who represented the father in the custody case, said in a phone interview Thursday, noting he was not involved in the criminal case that arose out of it. “But the bottom line was that he was granted interim custody, and right around that same time Ms. Rodriguez disappeared.”
Deputy U.S. Marshal and spokeswoman Rochelle Liedike said the Marshals Service in Anchorage became involved in the case at the request of the Juneau Police Department. JPD could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Liedike said JPD opened a criminal case into the matter after the mother disappeared with the child in July 2013. The child was later reported as missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, she said.
“The Juneau Police Department reached out to our office and requested assistance in locating her and recovering the child, and we started developing leads that led us to California,” Liedike said Thursday in a phone interview from Anchorage. “That’s when we reached out to our counterparts in California to assist with the location and apprehension of her.”
Liedike declined to say how Marshals found the mother and daughter, citing the ongoing investigation. Court records indicated that Rodriguez’s mother lived in California.
Juneau Superior Court documents show Rodriguez and Bryan M. Ryder separated in May 2013. The next month, Rodriguez took out a domestic violence protective order against Ryder, and she was initially granted custody of their child. Two days later, however, Ryder took out a domestic violence order against Rodriguez.
According to custody papers, Ryder was allowed visitation during that time, but the mother refused to let him see the child. She left in late July and refused to reveal her exact whereabouts to either Ryder or the judge, according to the papers.
During an Aug. 2, 2013 hearing, Juneau Magistrate James Curtain ruled both parents had committed acts of domestic violence against each other. Curtain found that the mother had destroyed Ryder’s property in a fit of rage, which is domestic violence criminal mischief. Curtain also found that Ryder engaged in reckless behavior by hitting a door with his hand, although he noted that Rodriguez “provoked the incident by taunting and harassing (him) when he tried to leave. Plaintiff also refused to leave defendant alone after the altercation, even when defendant locked a door to keep her out.”
During that Aug. 2, 2013, hearing, the magistrate granted Ryder temporary custody of the child and ordered the mother hand over the child by 4 p.m. that afternoon. By then, Rodriguez was already on the lam. She never turned her daughter over.
Magistrate Curtain granted full custody to Ryder in December 2013. He found that both parents loved the child — drugs and alcohol were never a problem, nor was abuse. But Rodriguez, he said, exhibited “a pattern of flying into uncontrolled rages” where she would scream profanities. Sometimes she would do that in front of her daughter, which Curtain described as troubling.
“When younger, the minor child would cry when exposed to plaintiff’s rages,” Curtain wrote in the Dec. 20 custody ruling, “but by the end of the parties’ relationship, it appears that the minor child had been exposed to plaintiff’s rages on so many occasions that the minor child no longer responded to them.”
A warrant had been issued for Rodriguez’s arrest on June 27 of this year. It was served by Marshals based in Los Angeles. They dubbed their mission to return the child to her father “Operation Pickup.”
When reached through his former attorney on Thursday, Ryder declined to comment. Hollis noted Ryder was out of state in California.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Rodriguez and Ryder were married before they separated in May 2013. They were never married.