Vermont Amber Alert Ends With Mother’s Arrest in Lyme

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Lyme — A 49-year-old mother is awaiting extradition to face felony charges in Vermont, where authorities allege she abducted her biological son from his foster family near Bennington before transporting him to the Upper Valley, where she was apprehended Monday night.

An Amber Alert was issued around 8:30 p.m. for 12-year-old Zachary Lee after his foster family reported he had not arrived home from his school bus drop-off on Monday in Sunderland, Vt.

Hanover Police arrested the boy’s mother, Patricia Kane, at the Lyme Inn around 11:30 p.m. on Monday after following up on a tip from someone who reported seeing Kane, her teenage daughter and Zachary dining together at the Canoe Club in downtown Hanover earlier that evening.

A Canoe Club employee who had helped Kane book a room later directed police to the inn.

Kane has been living in Manchester, Vt., with her 17-year-old daughter for several months. While the family are all U.S. citizens, the children were raised in France.

Kane appeared at a brief arraignment in Lebanon District Court Tuesday afternoon, when she waived her right to challenge extradition to Vermont, where she faces charges of custodial interference and unlawful restraint related to the Amber Alert. Both are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Kane is being held at Grafton County Jail in North Haverhill until Vermont authorities can transport her. Her arraignment in Vermont is yet to be scheduled.

New Hampshire Attorney Tony Hutchins, who represented Kane, declined to comment after the hearing. A message left with her Vermont attorney, Ted Parisi, was not returned Tuesday evening.

In a statement Monday, Vermont State Police said Zachary had been “recently repatriated from France,” and that “authorities have been concerned that Zachary’s mother … may take off with Zachary.

“This is based on a documented history of such attempts while the child was in the custody of the Republic of France,” officials said.

The statement said Kane in recent weeks was considered by authorities — including the state Department for Children and Families — to be “highly unstable and volatile.”

Kane’s daughter, Martha Lee, who will turn 18 next week, said in an interview Tuesday morning that Zachary had been placed in a French foster home a little more than a year ago.

Martha Lee said after her father, an American lawyer and diplomat, died from a heart attack in March 2013, Kane tried to work through legal channels to allow Zachary to attend his funeral in the United States. Martha Lee said Kane was arrested and charged with abduction after bringing her son, who was still in foster care, to the U.S. embassy, which is considered to be sovereign U.S. territory.

Martha Lee said she and her mother ultimately moved to Manchester, Vt., last summer, and worked with the Department of Children and Families to transfer Zachary to a Vermont foster home, with the hope of eventually regaining custody.

However, after Kane repeatedly called state officials one recent day over concerns about the $4,000 repatriation fees for her son, authorities raised concerns about Kane’s mental state, Martha Lee said.

Martha Lee disputes state officials’ characterization of her mother’s condition.

“I don’t know on what basis they can say she’s unstable,” she said.

After Zachary arrived in the U.S. Jan. 14, Martha Lee and Kane were disappointed to find that their visitation rights were limited compared with what they had expected, Martha Lee said.

For example, they had to meet with Zachary under supervision at government offices and were required to speak in English so that they could not conspire in French, she said.

“It didn’t make us feel comfortable,” she said in an interview, sitting at a restaurant booth in Hanover, the fluffy white forehead of her Maltese dog peeking out from a large bag under her arm. “They changed their minds (about the visitation limitations).”

It was also difficult for them to get from their home in Manchester to government offices in Bennington because bus schedules did not correlate with Martha Lee’s school schedule and it was a $100 taxi ride each way, Martha Lee said.

After Kane and Martha Lee picked up Zachary in a taxi Monday night, they traveled to the Upper Valley, where Kane graduated from Dartmouth College in 1986, Martha Lee said.

“We were all really happy to be together,” Martha Lee said.

After they checked in at the Lyme Inn, they decided to relax by watching TV, which is when they saw the Amber Alert.

Police arrived a short time later, and Martha Lee stayed at the Hanover Police Department with her brother until around 3 a.m., when authorities arrived to take him into protective custody, she said.

Martha Lee said she felt the alert was “out of proportion.” People should be focusing strictly on whether the child was in danger, she said.

“I don’t think this was the kind of situation that justifies that large of an alert,” she said. “I was really shocked. … We’re talking about a foster family who’s had him for all of two weeks, (and) we’re talking about my mother,” who has been working to regain custody of Zachary since he was placed in foster care, she said.

“Right now, what’s really important is to speak with my brother and assure him we’re not forgetting him,” she said.

Workers at the Canoe Club and Lyme Inn said they had bizarre interactions with Kane, who reportedly wore big dark sunglasses throughout the evening’s dinner and the hotel check-in process.

Anna Guenther, manager at the Canoe Club, said Kane asked for her help to schedule a taxi to Portsmouth, N.H. — more than 100 miles away — before changing her mind after Guenther had already set it up. It was one of several “weird interactions” throughout the evening, Guenther said.

“It wasn’t just the helping her, it was helping her with pretty peculiar requests that she then kept turning down even though I felt like I had found a solution,” Guenther said.

The children, she said, did not appear to be scared or unhappy, and instead seemed like “pretty normally disinterested teens and preteens,” playing on electronic devices at the dinner table. Occasionally Kane would ask Martha Lee for help or for her opinion, Guenther said.

Kane had four beers before leaving the restaurant, according to a police affidavit.

Lyme Inn Executive Chef Tony Rinella, who was running the front desk when Kane and her children checked in Monday night around 10 p.m., shared a similar experience, though he noted that the mother appeared “distraught” and continually mentioned that they had had a long day.

After the children were set up in the room, Kane came back down to the hotel bar around 10:30 p.m. and asked Rinella if he could arrange for a cab to the Seacoast the following morning, he said.

She told Rinella that her credit cards had been stolen and was paying in gift cards she had purchased, he said.

“She just seemed strange, she seemed odd, but she didn’t seem nervous,” Rinella said.

Police arrived at the Canoe Club after a tipster alerted them around 10:30 p.m. that they had seen the family at the restaurant, and Guenther said even before cops showed her photos from the Amber alert, she knew which family they would be asking about.

A short time later, the bartender walked over and showed her the alert on his phone.

Hanover Police Capt. Frank Moran said he heard the Amber alert on the radio a short time after his officers began pursuing leads.