Mother sent son to live with internet stranger

By Simon Davis in Los Angeles The Telegraph

A WOMAN has been arrested after giving away her 10-year-old son to a man she contacted briefly over the internet because she could not cope with the boy's bad behaviour.

Police were alerted after the boy's stepbrother told teachers at his school: "My stepmother has given away my stepbrother." Helen Chase, 29, sent her son, who has not been named, more than 1,000 miles to Florida to live with the man because, she said, he was too naughty for her to deal with. She read a notice in an internet chat room from a man saying his name was Gus and he wanted to adopt a seven-year-old boy.

The pair exchanged a few messages by computer before Chase sent her son to Florida. Detectives said she made no effort to check out who the man was. They believe the man paid for the travel arrangements. Chase moved house soon after her son left in an attempt to avoid detection. The boy's father is in prison.

The child was found unharmed earlier this week after being away for three months. He will return to California, where officials said he was likely to be placed in foster care. A police spokesman said: "She told us she was having trouble with her 10-year-old. Problems at school, that sort of thing, really typical 10-year-old stuff."

Chase claims that she tried to have her son adopted through the correct channels last year after the child refused to stop being naughty but was unable to do so. Police said there was no evidence of this. Police picked up the boy at the home of Gustaf Sjoberg and his wife in St Petersburg, Florida. A police spokesman said: "They told officers they were seeing how the boy did, living with them before they started the adoption process."

The couple have four other children whom they adopted through the normal process and detectives said there were no plans at the moment to charge the pair. A police spokesman said: "There are no direct laws to stop a couple accepting a child across the internet because, to our knowledge this has never happened before. I don't know what this woman was thinking."

Chase faces charges of child endangerment, abandonment and failure to provide for a child. Despite what has happened, police said the boy wanted to return home to his mother.

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