PROVO — A judge has dismissed kidnapping charges against grandparents who helped their teenage grandchild flee her mother's house.

Stanley E. and Linda Ottaway, 70 and 62, respectively, had been charged in 4th District Court with a second-degree felony charge of kidnapping and a third-degree felony of obstructing justice for giving their 16-year-old granddaughter money for a plane ticket and driving her to the airport.

Lyndsay Ottaway, the teenager, testified during a preliminary hearing months ago that she was unhappy living with her mother and wanted to get away.

"I didn't want to be around her anymore," the teen testified. "I felt she wasn't listening to me, I didn't like her boyfriend, I didn't like the place that we moved."

So she accepted her grandparents' help to go to her aunt and uncle's house in Washington.

And prosecutors argued that the Ottaways' actions — taking Lyndsay without her mother's permission and not talking about her where-abouts — constituted kidnapping.

But defense attorney Richard Gale argued that it's impossible for a person to be "detained or restrained when they're voluntarily with another individual," even if it's against the parent's wishes.

Judge Claudia Laycock dismissed the case last week, saying the wording in the kidnapping statute makes it very clear that the act has to be done against the person's will.

"The girl never testified that this was done against her will," Laycock said Wednesday. "She wanted to leave; she wasn't happy at home."

And the couple couldn't be charged with child kidnapping because Lyndsay was older than 14, Gale said. Child kidnapping applies only to children under 14 and includes the caveat that no matter what the child wants, taking him or her against the will of the parents constitutes a crime.

To charge someone with kidnapping a child who is 14 to 18 years old, prosecutors must prove the child was taken against his or her will and without the parent's consent.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Aaron Nielson said that even though Lyndsay wanted to go, Lyndsay's mother, the Ottaways' daughter, didn't have any say in where her daughter went. "Her parents didn't know where she was," Nielson said. "As a parent, that's really difficult."

Lyndsay's mother, Corina Corey, said she never gave permission for her parents to take Lyndsay out of state on Feb. 12, 2005.

"I knew Lyndsay had gone over to her grandparents' house. It was a Saturday," Corey testified at the preliminary hearing. "I told her to be home by the time I got home from work; I got off work at 3 p.m. When she wasn't home by 4:30 and 5, I knew something was up."

While wanting to establish some sort of definition of parents' rights and roles, Nielson acknowledged that perhaps the law is written as it is to allow children over the age of 14 an escape route from dangerous or abusive situations. This situation was neither, however.

"I do think it should be brought to the attention of lawmakers, (to ask) if it's intended to be that way or if there is a loophole," Nielson said.

Lyndsay Ottaway spent several months living with different family members in Washington and Oregon before returning home. She is now living with her mother and doing well, Gale said.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com