The case gained international attention after Michael Long launched a viral campaign claiming his daughter was being abused, although an attorney appointed to represent the young girl recommended her mother be given custody.
BY JILL SEDERSTROM
A Texas girl, who appeared in viral videos last year produced by her father claiming she had been abused in her mother’s care, is missing after disappearing with her father.
The Texas Department of Safety said Michael Long, 42, allegedly abducted his 10-year-old daughter Sophie and fled the area, according to a missing persons alert.
Michael does not have custodial rights to the child and is believed to be driving an off-white 2010 Ford Edge SUV or gray van with blacked out windows.
Authorities believe the pair, who were last seen July 12 in Seguin, Texas, could be headed to Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Mexico or Argentina.
The abduction comes after a heated custody battle between Michael and his ex-wife, Kelly Long, over the couple’s three children.
The dispute received international attention after Michael launched the campaign #standwithsophie claiming his ex-wife had abused their daughter and published a 20-minute video to YouTube in August, showing the young girl visibly distressed about returning to her mother’s care.
Kelly has aggressively denied the allegations and multiple medical providers, including the Department of Child Protective Services, a pediatrician and hospitals, have “ruled numerous times” that “there is no evidence of any sexual abuse or neglect, nor evidence to support other outrageous claims made by Michael,” according to a statement from The Routzon Law Firm.
“Experts believe that Michael Long’s actions form a textbook example of ‘parental alienation’—a type of child abuse in which he has consistently used psychological manipulation to turn his daughter Sophie against her mother,” the attorneys said.
An amicus attorney appointed by court to represent the child’s best interests also recommended Kelly Long be granted sole legal custody after concluding that the video had been “self-produced” and “heavily edited,” according to Fox News.
The attorney noted “deep concerns” over the “children’s immediate emotional health and safety while in their father’s care.”
Michael allegedly rarely sent the children to school when they were in his custody and had coached the children on how to respond to questions, according to court documents obtained by the news outlet.
In the statement from the Routzon Law firm, attorneys said Michael frequently referenced believing in “magical beings” and threatened to “use magic” against his ex-wife, who he often sent “rambling” and “cryptic” threats.
The attorney appointed to represent Sophie also alleged that Michael had used the custody battle for his own profit after he set up a GoFundMe account which raised more than $200,000 after the video went viral.
Michael had allegedly filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after accruing more than $500,000 in debt, according to the attorney’s statement.
The Routzon Law Firm issued a “fraud alert” last year in connection with the GoFundMe page, which currently appears disabled.
“We have alerted the authorities and attorneys are doing everything they can to warn the public about the false nature of these claims,” a family spokesperson said at the time. “Michael Long’s personal vendetta against his ex-wife has now escalated to dangerous levels.”
Oxygen.com reached out to the law firm, but did not receive an immediate response.
Michael’s campaign against his wife earned him international support and drew his ex-wife into the cross-hairs. At one point, her attorneys said she had to hide in a hotel room after a “gun-carrying, angry social media mob” discovered her home address.
“We are unfortunately dealing with a very volatile and increasingly dangerous situation,” the family spokesperson said last year. “Michael Long will seemingly stop at nothing to destroy his ex-wife, even if it wreaks massive psychological damage on his family and involves stealing money from the public through false claims.”
According to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, 5 percent of all child missing persons cases are family abductions. The majority of missing persons cases, or 91%, are considered endangered runaways and less than 1% of all cases are considered non-family abductions.
A 2011 study of couples mandated to attend mediation during a divorce process, found that at least 90% of parents in the study reported “at least some form” of intimate partner abuse during the negotiations. In 66% of those cases, at least one of the partners reported the abuse to an outside agency like the police, courts, hospitals or domestic violence shelter.
Michael is described as having blonde hair and green eyes. He weighs approximately 205 pounds and is 6’4”. Anyone with information about the disappearance is urged to contact authorities.