Holly Collins returns after 14 years in hiding
The battered woman fled to Amsterdam with her children in defiance of a court order
September 24, 2008 report from citypages.com:
by Beth Walton
On December 22, 1992, after a brutal court battle, Collins lost custody of her children. Despite warnings from doctors and psychiatrists that her ex-husband was dangerous, and claims from the children that their father was hurting them, Hennepin County Family Court Judge Michael J. Davis awarded Mark Collins of Crystal full custody of Zachary and Jennifer, then ages 7 and 9. Holly Collins, the judge argued, suffered from a “personality disorder”—most likely Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare illness in which a mother secretly hurts her kids to gain attention.
Letters flooded the court and protests were held regularly at the Government Center. Even Collins’s court-appointed psychologist expressed skepticism at the diagnosis. Collins’s problems were “the result of marital abuse or battering,” the expert wrote. Nonetheless, the state Court of Appeals refused to reverse custody. Evaluators were convinced that Collins had been coaching her children to claim abuse by their dad and that they were actually safer in his care.
“Anything that happened to my children after the court was made aware they were being abused, Hennepin County is responsible for,” Collins says. “I’ll take responsibility for marrying the guy, for staying so long, but after the court knew, after they saw the medical records, everything that happened after that, every single beating, Hennepin County is responsible for. And I think they should make amends for that.”
More than a year later, when the children claimed continuing abuse at the hands of their father, Collins devised an escape plan. She secretly met the children at a local video store, where the kids ditched their bikes and jumped into her car. After months on the road in disguises, Collins and her three children ended up in the Netherlands, where in 1997 they were granted asylum.
Collins was charged by the state of Minnesota for deprivation of parental rights and by the FBI for fleeing to avoid arrest. The family remained in hiding until 2006, when they were discovered. The Dutch government declined to extradite her, and federal charges were eventually dropped.
But Hennepin County refused to budge. Deputy County District Attorney Pat Diamond told City Pages in July, “Look, we are not going to negotiate with someone who is in a country with a non-extradition treaty, fleeing from a crime. That’s just not how we do things.”
Yet as the case received increased attention from the media and politicians, the hard-line stance started to soften. Earlier this month, Collins’s lawyer, Alan Rosenfeld, got word that charges would be dropped…
Read the rest of this article at citypages.com, as well as more in-depth coverage of the story from July 2008 – including photos and artwork drawn by Jennifer and Zachary Collins in therapy, and an interview with Jennifer.