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Documents reveal why prosecutors believe a mother abducted her own kids and went on the run after no-showing court

Kristi Nicole Gilley pictured in two separate photos.

Kristi Nicole Gilley

Missouri prosecutors have revealed more about the circumstances of the child custody battle that they say preceded the kidnapping of two young children by their own mother.

Law&Crime has obtained the warrant, the probable cause statement, and the complaint in the case against Kristi Nicole Gilley, the 36-year-old who was arrested in Florida last week after she was allegedly spotted shopping in disguise at a Winn Dixie store. According to authorities in Clay County, Mo., Gilley kidnapped Brooke Gilley, now 11, and Adrian Gilley, now 12, on April 14, 2022 after refusing to participate in a custody case headed for trial on that day. The suspect allegedly then took the children to California.

“Subject to a custody agreement, without notification and without permission from the courts, Kristi moved herself and her two children to the state California. Kristi refused to appear for a custody modification hearing on 4/14/2022, in Clay County, that she had originated,” said the probable cause statement made by Det. Hillary Harmon of the Liberty Police Department (LPD) in Missouri. “Through an ‘advocate,’ Kristi has refused to cooperate with the courts decision to grant Blake sole legal custody of their children.”

The children’s father, identified as Blake E. Gilley, told LPD that he and the defendant previously had a joint custody agreement, stemming from a case in Randall County, Texas. The father said, however, that following their divorce Kristi Gilley moved into a Liberty, Mo., home with her sister. Documents said that Kristi Gilley attempted to modify the child custody arrangement through the legal system but ultimately no-showed a scheduled trial and took off with the children — identified in documents only as BMG and AWG — across the country.

“Kristi filed for a custody modification in Clay County Circuit Court (18CY-CV03248-02) and had requested numerous continuances throughout the case. The case was set for trial on 4/14/2022. Kristi attempted to get another continuance, but was denied. Kristi did not appear in court and the court granted Blake sole legal custody of the children,” the probable cause document said. “Kristi had been making it increasingly more difficult for Blake to visit or speak to the children for quite some time, and had refused to let Blake visit or speak to the children at all, since 3/15/2022.”

Prosecutors said that Blake Gilley found out from the Liberty School District that other school districts — one as far away as California — had requested the children’s school records.

Through contact with the Liberty School District, Blake learned that on 3/8/22, BMG’s school records were requested by Marigold School District in Chico, California and AWG’s school records were requested by an undetermined school district. Chico, California Police Department did a welfare check at Kristi’s grandfather’s house, however Kristi and her grandfather no longer live there. A School Resource Officer for Chico, California Police Department confirmed that the children were recently removed from Marigold School District.

I (Det. Harmon #216) contacted Kristi’s advocate, Jill Jones Soderman […] who stated the following; She and Kristi would not be cooperating with Clay County Court due to their beliefthat the Clay County Court was violating Kristi’s rights by refusing Kristi’s right to due process. They requested a continuance for the court date that was set on 4/14/2022, but that it was denied. The children were safe and being homeschooled. They would not be ready for court until they gathered sufficient information and proof that Blake should not have custody of the children. She would not provide an address or city for Kristi and the children.

Though Missouri authorities said that “[m]ultiple attempts to contact Kristi directly, and through her family members, were met with negative results,” the Susanville Police Department in California conducted a welfare check at a residence on June 19, 2022 and found Kristi Gilley and the children there.

“Dep. Shannon advised that the children appeared clean and healthy,” documents continued.

Blake Gilley, now reunited with the children, reportedly told NBC News that the kids told him Kristi Gilley tried to avoid getting caught by hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb across the United States, eventually making it all the way to Florida.

“My kids were missing. I didn’t know where they are […] That’s the biggest fear in the world,” the father reportedly said. “It is an understatement to say I was terrified and freaked out.”

The defendant remains held in the Alachua County, Fla., jail and reportedly plans to fight extradition to Missouri.

Law&Crime reached out to Kristi Gilley’s attorney Maurice McDaniel for comment.

Upon Gilley’s return to the Show Me State, she would face a felony parental kidnapping charge. Prosecutors noted that Gilley could face 1 to 4 years in prison if convicted as charged.

Read the documents here, here, and here.

[Images via High Springs Police Department, California Attorney General’s Office]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.