June 8, 2016
Amid a bitter custody battle, Laura took her 4-year-old daughter and left Pennsylvania, in what turned into a cross-country investigation.
When authorities finally located Laura in Utah, they called her estranged husband, Joe, to let him know his daughter had been found.
“I was ecstatic. I was relieved,” Joe says of the day U.S. Marshals called him to say his little girl had been found.
WATCH: Mother Explains Leaving With 4-Year-Old Daughter & Why She Hasn’t Seen The Child Since Being Acquitted Of Kidnapping
Although Laura was charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and interference with custody, she was acquitted of all charges. It’s now been four years since Laura has seen her daughter – and Joe claims that is for good reason.
“Laura had threatened that she would kill my daughter and herself. She threatened to go on the run multiple times,” Joe claims. “She bought a handgun and she started to threaten killing herself various times, shooting me various times … whenever she started to threaten to kill my daughter, that’s when it became something that I couldn’t accept.”
Joe says the search for Laura and their daughter began when his estranged wife failed to show up for a custody hearing.
WATCH: Mom Claims She Feared for Her 4-Year-Old Daughter’s Life
“At that point, I didn’t know if I would ever see my daughter ever again, let alone alive. My worst fear was she would be killed by her own mom,” he says, adding that when authorities found them in Utah, Laura had a handgun in the vehicle.
Laura, however, claims she ran away with the child because Joe had been abusive and threatened to harm both her and their daughter.
“Joe has repeatedly told me that he was going to kill me. He had threatened me with obtaining a gun from his father,” Laura claims. “With the violence increasing, we fled. The only thing I could think of was putting distance between us.”
As for the gun, Laura claims it was for their own safety.
“I had my gun with me for protection. I was determined to protect my daughter,” she says.
WATCH: Wife Responds To Estranged Husband’s Claims Of ‘Bizarre’ Paranoia
While the courts have granted Laura visitation, Joe explains why he says he’s reluctant to allow her to see their daughter.
“At that point, she’s capable of anything. I look over my shoulder every time I take my daughter to school. What’s she going to do? Is she going to kill our daughter and herself and me?” Joe says. “One of my fears is that if Laura had any kind of visitation to my daughter, she would just take off again. I never want to lose my daughter again. I’m not going to let that happen.”
This episode of Dr. Phil airs Thursday.