International custody battle has Oregon ties

BERKELEY, Calif. &

A California woman who traveled to Italy hoping to regain custody of her two children is facing opposition from local residents who surrounded the house where the boys are staying with their father.

Karyn Krause, 37, daughter of an Oregonian, went to Ispica, in Sicily, where her estranged husband took their young sons in May to visit family. The three had been due to return in July, but instead Krause said she got an e-mail from Carmelo Amore, 41, saying he was not coming back.

An international child abduction court in the Hague ruled in November that 5-year-old Emanuele and 3-year-old Nicolas must be returned to California, Krause said. And an Italian court ruled Friday in Amore's separate custody filing that the California courts have jurisdiction.

A woman who answered the phone Friday at his house said Amore was unavailable for comment.

As the situation unfolded, Krause's mother, Bonnie Miller, waited anxiously from her home in Central Point, Ore. She moved from California in 1996.

"They're just wonderful little boys and I just think of what's happened to them in all of this," Miller said.

After the Hague ruling in November, Amore and the children could not be found, Krause said. But she got a call from Italian authorities in December that they had been located in Ispica and a hand-over was supposed to take place on Tuesday.

Instead, Krause said, a crowd of family, friends and neighbors surrounded the house that day, prompting a standoff that continued into Friday.

Police in Ispica said about 100 people were blocking access, and Krause said authorities told her they didn't want to force their way in and frighten the children.

"(Italian police) are just not talking decisive action," she said. "They are wonderful people, but they are very hesitant to take action because young children are involved.

"But these young children are being held hostage in the house."

Krause and Amore met in Bologna, Italy, while Krause was living there and working as a travel writer. The couple was married in 2000 and moved to the East Bay town of Albany.

Krause said she last saw her children on Sunday night in Ispica, where "we had a wonderful, wonderful reunion."

They ran to my arms and they hugged me," she said.

Krause said she could have taken the children then, "but I decided to follow the law and the social service agreement was that we were to leave Tuesday."

Amore's attorney, Salvatore Giuliano, said through a translator that Amore doesn't want to turn the children over, and the children themselves don't want to leave. But his client is ready to comply with the court order and hand the children over when his wife comes for them, Giuliano said.

Krause planned to return to Amore's home late Friday night in another attempt to retrieve the children, but she was not optimistic.

"Up until now he has said quite a few things, but so far he hasn't delivered," she said. "If all goes well, we'll have a happy ending. If not, there will be serious consequences."

Associated Press writers Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Marta Falconi in Rome and Juliana Barbassa in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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