Dad’s in Brazil, but no sign of Sean

Asbury Park Press
Dad’s in Brazil, but no sign of Sean
by Bill Handelman
October 21, 2008

avid Goldman was on the red-eye to Rio de Janeiro Thursday. He was flying down to Brazil because there was a chance he might be reunited with his son, if only for 48 hours. He hasn’t seen Sean since 2004, when the boy was 4 years old.

On Friday Goldman e-mailed friends. "I am cautiously optimistic," he wrote.

Saturday morning, he went to the address where his son supposedly lives in Rio. He was accompanied by two Brazilian federal agents, three Brazilian court officers, a U.S. consular officer and his Brazilian attorney.

The agents and the court officers went inside to begin the court-ordered visitation process. They came out 20 minutes later and told Goldman his son wasn’t there, that they were told his stepfather had taken the boy away the day before and that no one in the condominium knew where they had gone.

"The agents checked the apartment and did not find Sean or (Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, his stepfather)," Goldman wrote in a subsequent e-mail. "The security of the building said they don’t think Sean lives in the condo, because they don’t see him there all the time."

"As is becoming the norm, the most egregious behavior by Lins e Silva and the Ribeiros (his former in-laws) . . . has continued. Actually, now it is worse, because they are disrespecting even a Brazilian Federal Court order and up until now getting away with it."

"So once again I’m in Brazil without any contact with my son, while his kidnappers go about their daily lives unscathed."

Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, had been down to Brazil on four other occasions over the past four years.

His ordeal began on June 16, 2004. That was the day he drove his family to Newark Airport — his wife, his son and his wife’s parents. He carried their bags into the terminal. There were hugs and kisses.

As far as Goldman knew, everything was fine. They were going to Brazil on a two-week vacation.

The next day, his wife called from Rio and told him she was never coming back and that if he ever wanted to see Sean again, he would have to come down to Brazil and sign some papers her lawyer had drawn up.

As far as their friends knew, Bruna and David Goldman were the perfect couple. They were shocked to learn that Bruna had left David, who appeared to be a loving husband and a doting father. David used to take Sean everywhere with him, their closest friends all say now, thinking back.

At first, in 2004, Goldman said, his wife let him talk to the little boy on the telephone on a fairly regular basis. After a while, he said, the calls became more and more infrequent. Then the letters and the gifts began coming back unopened. Then Bruna remarried, despite the fact that she never got a divorce in the United States. David and Bruna Goldman were married here. They had their wedding reception at the Molly Pitcher. Sean was born at Riverview Hospital.

In August, the story took an awful turn when Bruna died after giving birth to another child, a little girl.

Goldman didn’t find out about this until a week later when a friend saw the report of her death in a Brazilian newspaper. Her husband and her parents were suing the doctor and the hospital, according to the paper.

Meanwhile, as his legal expenses began to overwhelm him, Goldman’s friends urged him to take his story to the media. While Lins e Silva, an attorney from a prominent family, had obtained a court order prohibiting the Brazilian press from covering the story, there was no such gag order in the United States. ABC News did a report. Goldman went on The Today Show. The Asbury Park Press ran a front-page story. Both NBC and CBS are now working on investigative pieces.

In recent days, the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia has become more involved, although not to the point where it has stepped in and made any kind of statement. Goldman did speak with the ambassador, Clifford Sobel, who has been mentioned in the past as a possible candidate in New Jersey for the U.S. Senate.

Now Lins e Silva is attempting to mount a case against Goldman, saying the federal government has no right to prosecute him, and suggesting that the federal attorney’s office should drop the case altogether.

At this point, David Goldman can only sit and wait.

"I am once again alone in a hotel room in Brazil," he said Monday night. "I once again came to Brazil for Sean and have been kicked in the teeth."

"If a Brazilian biological mother disrespected two federal court orders from a Brazilian judge and prohibited the biological father from access to a child, she would be in great risk of losing her rights to the child. Yet, Lins e Silva does it and is not held accountable."

Will Brazil now change the foundation of its legal system for him?

"It is disgraceful. I am upset. I am disgusted. I am tired."

"But I will not give up on my son! He must come home!"

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