Alicia Comes Home (Part I)

How a determined father found his abducted daughter

By the summer of 1989, Pat was apparently convinced she could get no justice in Dallas County, so she transferred her case to Collin County, where she and her husband then resided. Desperate for money, she offered to settle all existing claims against Pete and the Connell family for $568,000. All Pete had to do was agree never to see Alicia again. He refused.

In March 1990, Pat brought Alicia in for another videotaping, only this time to CPS offices in Collin County. Alicia again reported the usual touching: He "put his finger right there."

Never mind that her vaginal exam revealed no evidence of abuse; never mind that Alicia admitted several times during the interview that her mother had told her what to say. In the interest of protecting the child, the caseworker felt another investigation was warranted. Pat gained another bit of ammunition in her war of attrition against Pete.

On March 22, 1990, after reviewing the videotape, Collin County Judge Nathan White remained uncertain any abuse had occurred. To help him resolve the issue, he convinced both sides to take polygraph tests. The results revealed that both Pete and Kathy were telling the truth when each said they had not sexually abused Alicia. Pat's test disclosed she was lying when asked if she had instructed or influenced Alicia to make sexual abuse "statements" against Pete Connell.

Flunking the polygraph test seemed to have convinced Pat she would lose Alicia in court. She was out of money, had no job, and her third marriage had ended in divorce. She had been through nearly a dozen lawyers--the last of whom was suing her for his fee. She was living an itinerant life with Alicia, depending for a place to stay on the kindness of strangers taken in by her tale of abuse.

On the morning of June 30, 1990, Pat proved Dr. Kary right. She grabbed her 4-year-old daughter, packed up what was left of her possessions--and ran.

Pete felt heartsick when he learned his daughter was gone. He hired private investigator Paul Hulsey to hunt down Pat.

Hulsey is a big, burly Texan, a former police chief from Amarillo, whose fax cover-sheet reads, "A Word from Hulsey International Investigations, 'DON'T EVER GIVE UP!'"

"You give me a name, a date of birth," says the private investigator, "and I can come up with anyone in the country."

It took Hulsey five months to flush Pat out of hiding. "I found her living with a sugar daddy in New Mexico," says Hulsey. "The police picked her up in Phoenix as she was making a run for California."

In Pat's absence, Judge White had awarded Pete full custody of Alicia. But the war was far from over. When Pat returned to Texas, she began to wage her crusade with a freshly righteous zeal. She filed motions with Judge White to gain unsupervised access to her daughter. Denied. She filed motions to modify custody, again alleging sexual abuse. Denied. On January 4, 1991, Judge White sentenced Pat to 30 days in jail for violating his orders by fleeing the jurisdiction with Alicia. She also faced a criminal charge: interference with child custody. That would be left for another day and another court.

Before Pat served her time, she met someone new at the Prestonwood Baptist Church. His name was Mark Hall.

Mark was an oafish-looking, well-spoken man of 34, divorced and living with his mother and his young son in Carrollton. A former minister, he once taught at a Christian school in Japan and now sold real estate. Mark fell prey to Pat's tale of woe. He says he wanted to help her.

A week after Pat's release from jail, Mark told his mother Kay that he was going to marry Pat Hope. It was the Christian thing to do, he explained; it would give Pat the appearance of stability and make her look better in court. Kay Hall was horrified at her son's gullibility, at the mesmerizing power this woman held over him.

Although Mark had never been a political man, he announced his candidacy for the Carrollton City Council within six weeks of his marriage to Pat. Some acquaintances suspected this was all Pat's doing, her way of advancing her personal agenda. Pat proved a ruthless campaigner, even stooping to play the race card against Mark's black female opponent. Although Mark lost by a narrow margin, he endeared himself to the Christian Right with his stand on family values.

When Hall ran again in 1992, he gained the active endorsement of conservative church groups who touted him as a "true Christian man." This time he narrowly won.

The campaign trail did little to distract Pat from her real mission: getting her daughter back. Crossing liberal lines, she enlisted the help of the National Organization for Women to picket the Collin County Courthouse. She passed out handbills at the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament accusing Judge White of being financially involved with the Connells. Her court allegations grew decidedly more bizarre. She claimed Pete and Kathy had exploited Alicia through pornography; that Kathy had taught Alicia how to masturbate; that Pete had physically abused Alicia; that the Connells were engaging in satanic rituals. As always, the new allegations were investigated and ruled unfounded or thrown out of court.

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