A Daughter Disconnected

"I heard my daughter screaming, I ran to the back porch, I saw my ex-husband grabbing Darby and my oldest daughter, Jolene."

With these words, Cressi begins to describe the day her daughter, Darby, disappeared. Darby was just 8 months old when Cressi's ex-husband came and took her. Cressi hasn't seen her since, and today Darby is 19 years old.

Cressi continues. "Joleen managed to pull away from my ex-husband and he ran with Darby and put her in the car. All I could do was scream at him to bring her back. She wasn't quite able to call for Mommy, but she had her hands out to me. We called the police, but they wouldn't charge him with anything because there was joint custody on Darby. He asked if he could have a couple days time with her, and then I could go pick her up on the weekend. A couple of days later, I went to the apartment that we had shared and they had moved. I realized that he had taken her with the intent of me not seeing her again. I sat there and cried. I called everybody who might have any clue where he was. His mom was a very good ally for me. When she would hear something, she would call me, we would show up, he would be gone. I kept in contact with his mother but then she passed away. I was pregnant, I was having complications, and I was just unable to continue searching for her. My girlfriend would hear from Darby's dad occasionally but she would never tell me where Darby was. The only other person who had contact with Darby was Lynn, my dad's ex-girlfriend, and she had told me that Darby wasn't quite ready to see me. After a couple of years, the only thing I could do was stay in the same town and keep my phone number listed should she ever try to find me."

Cressi's daughter, Joleen, doesn't remember much of her relationship with Darby. "I grew up wondering how Darby's life was, if she was happy, if she wondered about me," she says.

A few months ago, another of Cressi's daughters said, "Mom, do you know Darby's on MySpace?" They looked up her profile.

"I was able to look at her and see how beautiful she was,"

says Cressi, "and learn a little bit about her and almost see her just as a real person, and not just a memory anymore." Sometimes Cressi looks at her profile several times a day, which is how she learned that Darby was not living with her father.


When Darby was 8 years old, the courts took her away from her dad and placed her with an aunt and uncle. "Nobody had contacted me when that had happened," says Cressi. "When I tried to call Darby, her aunt did not let me speak with her. I asked her, ‘Why didn't anybody contact me?' Her answer was that it was my job to go find Darby and not her job to tell me where she was."

Jolene says, "My hope is that Darby will understand that not everything that's happened was my mom's fault."

"I'm very eager to get the truth to Darby, that her mother never abandoned her, that she was taken away from me, and that I think about her every day," says Cressi.

Face to face with Cressi, Dr. Phil asks, "How can you go 18 years and not find her when she's with family?"

"Because the family that she was with never contacted me in any way to let me know that she was with them and not with her father," she responds. "I had always believed that she was with her father."

"Well, we've been talking to Darby, and she has had the following things to say." Dr. Phil reads from a blue card. "She said, 'I know that my mother is going to try and act like she was a perfect mom when she gets on national television, as though she tried to look for me. It makes me sick.'

She doesn't believe that you've tried to look for her. 'I don't owe her anything. I have absolutely no love for her. She abandoned me, and I've been dealing with that for 20 years, and I am done. I am done. I don't want to see her. I want Dr. Phil to nail my mom on what she has done and not let her get away with it. She is a liar. She did not try to find me.' So that's what you're up against. That's how she feels. That's what her perception of this is. Does that surprise you?"

Cressi begins, "Well, because there have been a couple of times where we thought we were going to be able to meet with Darby and both times fell through, we knew that she does not " "

"Well, she has said that she actually would like to meet her sisters, but that you keep getting in the middle of it, and therefore she can't do it. Would you let her meet her sisters without you if that's what she wanted to do?"

"I want her to do whatever she needs to do," says Cressi.

"I can tell you, if a meeting is imminent, you're going to have some hard questions to answer," says Dr. Phil.