She takes a look back at the events leading up to their disappearance. "Michael would get angry if he didn't think I was living up to the expectations of a wife. In his eyes, I could never do anything right. Michael teased me a lot throughout our marriage. He said he was testing my moods, if I could take it or not. He would point a finger at me like he was going to poke it in my eye and just do it over and over and over, and I would beg him to stop. Michael teased my daughters too. He would hold them upside-down when they were infants, ask them to hug him, and if they refused him, he would threaten to spank them."
Michelle's husband decided to answer his religious calling and to pursue what he considered a purer way of life. The family moved into a 1969 trailer with no running water, electricity or indoor plumbing, in a small community in the woods. Their only toilet was a five-gallon bucket with a toilet lid. Michael read Bible verses and sang hymns at certain times of the day along with his family. He soon befriended a man who was part of the Worldwide Church of God. "The Worldwide Church of God has some very radical beliefs on the Bible," says Michelle.
Michael came across the Old German Baptist Church on the Internet, and Michelle attended one service with him. "This was not like any church I had ever been in," she says. "I thought, I can't do this anymore. I can't continue this roller coaster, so I came back to the area I grew up in, I got a job, and I got a divorce."
The couple underwent a custody evaluation, and the psychologist in charge determined custody should go to Michael.
Michelle recounts, "When the girls went to live with Michael, he made them dress in long skirts with long-sleeved blouses, or in long dresses. He refused to put them in public school. He put them in a Christian school setting. The girls missed a lot of school. Michael would claim it was because they had become ill, but the girls later let me know a lot of the times it was because they couldn't wake him up to take them to school."
Michelle sued for emergency custody of her daughters. Her husband was supposed to bring the girls to her early one Friday morning. "He called me at 7:00 and told me that they were running late. That was the last time I ever talked to him," says Michelle.
"This ordeal has been very traumatic for all of us in our family," says Michelle's mother, Connie. "We hope and pray every holiday, every birthday, that we're going to hear from those girls."
Michael is now a federal fugitive of the law and faces child abduction charges, which could result in a five-year prison sentence. Michelle and her family believe he may be hiding at a religious colony run by a group called the Hutterites.
"There's an empty spot in my heart," says Michelle. She sobs, "I want to see them and hold them again. I just want my babies back."Dr. Phil hands Michelle a handkerchief. She dabs her eyes and confirms that she had no indication her husband was planning to take their children and run.
"Look, there is nothing that I am going to say that is going to suggest that what he has done is acceptable," says Dr. Phil. "In fairness, I have to ask you some questions. I've spent a lot of time in the legal arena, and I understand that the custody court, the family court, is often referred to as the woman's court. And for the court to award custody to Michael over you is a bold move. Tell me what your explanation of that is."
"My husband brought up things about my past," says Michelle, "things that had happened before we even met. I had some difficulty with depression, which I am now being treated for, and I had two suicide attempts in my lifetime, and so he brought those up. And they decided he might be the more stable parent."
"You were evaluated by the court-appointed professionals, and they indicated and opined that you had evidenced psychotic behavior in the past, that you had heard demons and voices in the past, and that you acknowledged that, correct? In the past, certainly not now."
"They had that in the report, but it was never asked of me," says Michelle. "That's what he said."
"OK, is it true or is it false?" Dr. Phil presses.
"It's false," Michelle responds.
Dr. Phil reveals that both Michelle's therapist and a psychiatrist have said that she is stable at this point, and they support her appearance on Dr. Phil.