A Cypress man has been reunited with his four-year-old son, four years after his former wife allegedly abducted the boy and took him back to her native Zambia.
Following custody proceedings in the Netherlands Wednesday, John Cotton Sr. flew home to California with his boy, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
Cotton was married to Silvia Chilombo Mulenga, 34, from 2005 to 2008, after which they shared joint custody of their 4-year-old son. In the fall of 2009, Mulenga lost her job, was evicted from her home, and her visa expired, according to an OCDA statement.
She informed the court she intended to return to Zambia with her son, but a court order prohibited her from doing so. Mulenga is accused of defying the court order by taking the child with her to Zambia in December 2009.
Cotton reported the abduction to the Cypress Police Department, which sparked an investigation and the OCDA filing a felony count of child abduction against Mulenga on Dec. 17, 2009. A family court awarded full custody to the father.
This past July, Cypress Police and the FBI learned John Cotton Jr. and maternal grandmother had traveled to the Netherlands to visit the boy's uncle, who is a professional soccer player. Dutch authorities were notified and picked up the child from the home.
Mulenga is accused of falsely alleging to Dutch Child Protective Services that the father was abusive and that their son should not be allowed to be returned to him. Dutch Child Protective Services later determined the allegations to be untrue. On Wednesday, after more than three months of court proceedings in the Netherlands, the court agreed to enforce the California custody order, clearing the way for the father and son to return home, according to the OCDA.
Mulenga still faces up to three years in state prison if convicted of the felony child abduction count pending against her. The OCDA considers her a fugitive likely residing in her native Zambia.