Skip to main content

Authorities find woman, daughter she allegedly snatched in 1984

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Mom arrested in 1984 kidnapping
  • Authorities were tipped off after girl, now 32, applied for a marriage license
  • Her mother is being held in Nevada pending extradition to New Jersey
  • Police say she at first gave another name but later admitted her identity

Read more about this story at CNN affiliate KRNV.

(CNN) -- A former New Jersey woman now living in Nevada was arrested on suspicion of abducting her daughter during a custody struggle more than 25 years ago, authorities said.

Nancy Dunsavage Fiedler, 57, of Incline Village, Nevada, was arrested Tuesday, according to the Somerset County, New Jersey, Prosecutor's Office and the Washoe County, Nevada, Sheriff's Office. She is accused of fleeing a courthouse in Somerville, New Jersey, with her then-6-year-old daughter, Eva Marie Fiedler, during a custody hearing on August 23, 1984.

At the time, the girl's father had full custody of her, according to New Jersey prosecutors. On June 28, 1985, Nancy Fiedler failed to appear for an arraignment on charges of interference with custody, and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

The case resurfaced Tuesday, when Eva Marie Fiedler, now 32, attempted to change her name to Melissa Reed in order to obtain a marriage license in Washoe County, Somerset County prosecutors said in a release. A background check found a listing in the National Crime Information Center for Eva Marie Fiedler as a missing child out of New Jersey.

"Investigating deputies determined that [Nancy Fiedler] had changed her name to Debbie Reed and was living in Incline Village," near Lake Tahoe, the Washoe County Sheriff's Office said in a release.

Washoe County authorities contacted Somerset County prosecutors, who asked the sheriff's office to locate Debbie Reed. They did so Tuesday night.

"Deputies noted that 'Debbie Reed' displayed the same descriptors as noted in the NCIC warrant for defendant Fiedler," New Jersey prosecutors said. After a brief interview, the woman admitted to authorities that she was Nancy Fiedler, Nevada authorities said, and was arrested.

Eva Marie Fielder apparently had no idea she had been abducted or that her mother was sought by police, according to CNN affiliate KRNV. It was unclear why she was attempting to change her name.

Capt. David Nikoley of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office told CNN Thursday that authorities aren't sure whether the girl knew of her abduction or why she sought the name change. Investigators in Nevada have not interviewed her yet, he said, and are awaiting a request to do so from New Jersey. "The dust hasn't settled yet," he said.

Washoe County authorities issued a statement saying the girl is now 31, but a flyer posted on a "Protect Your Kids" internet forum lists her birthday as May 9, 1978, meaning she would now be 32.

The same forum, in a thread marked "Parental Abduction," has a posting dated January 2010 from a person self-identified as Eva Marie Fiedler's cousin.

"Myself and our whole family would love more than anything to have her back," the posting says. "... Please Eva Marie we all want you to come back and we all promise you will be safe with us we all love you ... if you or your mom are just afraid to come back, we promise you will be safe."

New Jersey prosecutors will extradite Nancy Fiedler from Nevada, according to the statement. Washoe County said she was being held at the county detention facility on a no-bail warrant pending that extradition.

"Throughout the years, detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office have followed dozens of leads, both domestic and international, in an attempt to locate defendant Fiedler and her daughter," with the assistance of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the statement said.

"Detectives have stated that throughout the years defendant Fiedler was able to remain undetected by obtaining a number of identities for her and her daughter," prosecutors said.

According to the Asbury Park Press newspaper in New Jersey, authorities charged Nancy Fiedler's sister and the sister's husband with conspiracy to interfere with a custody order and contempt of court in the case, three years after the girl's disappearance. Prosecutors claimed the two, who were living in California, helped Nancy Fiedler keep the girl from her father.

The couple was acquitted following a weeklong trial in 1988, despite admitting Nancy Fiedler and the girl had stayed with them for several months, the newspaper said. The couple claimed they had had no contact with the two since they moved out.

The girl's father, identified as Greg Fiedler, testified during the trial, the Asbury Park Press said. Attempts by CNN to contact Greg Fiedler on Thursday were unsuccessful.

CNN's Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.