Mother Gets Custody Of Long-Missing Daughter

STREETSBORO, Ohio (AP) - A Greensboro, N.C., woman received custody Friday of a 6-year-old daughter who had been missing for five years in a custody dispute.

Nikki Jones used a private investigator to find daughter Gail Perkins (pictured, right) living with her paternal grandmother in an apartment in this community 25 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Mother and daughter were to travel back to North Carolina on Friday, said attorney Robert Rosenberg of Ravenna, who represents Jones.

Police found the girl last Saturday by acting on the investigator's tip. Gail met with her mother Tuesday for the first time since she was a year old.

"She said she remembers Mom," Rosenberg said. "When Nikki asked, 'Do you remember me?' She said, 'yeah.'"

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci on Friday charged the girl's grandmother, Ruth Perkins, uncles Solomon and Allen Perkins and aunt Annette Perkins with obstruction of justice and interference with custody.

They all live at the same Streetsboro address and face up to six months in jail on each charge if convicted. A court appearance is scheduled for March 12.

Jones was thrilled that she received custody so quickly, Rosenberg said.

"I think she just felt it was handled very well," he said. "Everyone wanted the same thing -- to have Jones reunited her with her daughter in a way that was the easiest for (Gail) to get adjusted to."

Rosenberg said the girl's first day with Jones was difficult and she feels sad about the relatives who raised her. Gail had grown up calling her grandmother her mother, authorities said.

"I think that she really didn't know how to handle everything she was hearing," he said.

Gail was in better spirits later in the week as she got reacquainted with her mother, Rosenberg said.

"Nikki is a very sweet, soft-spoken woman. I think she allowed her daughter to warm up to her," he said.

Jones said the girl's father, Adam Lee Perkins, took her to Alabama in January 1997 to live with him and his mother. She said he was supposed to bring the girl back, but never did. Perkins lives in North Carolina.

Rosenberg said Jones went through four private investigators over five years to find her daughter.

"She basically registered the child as a missing child," he said.

A North Carolina court, which has jurisdiction over the child, ruled in 1999 that Jones is her legal custodian, Rosenberg said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)