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Mother Accused Of Abducting Children 'Didn't Know She Was On The Run'

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ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — The children at the center of a strange cross-country kidnapping are back with their father.

Ernest Karnes was reunited with his son, Dusty, and daughter, Erica, now ages 6 and 8, Monday for the first time in nearly three years.

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    Shellie White, Karnes' ex-wife, is accused of abducting the children from Arizona. Authorities tracked her to Roanoke Rapids and arrested her Friday.

    Investigators said White dressed and acted like a man the past two years, telling the children she was actually their dad and allowing them to call her "daddy."

    "I haven't lived the life of someone on the run," White said in a jail interview exclusively with WRAL. "I never knew I was on the run."

    White was arrested more than two years after she was charged with custodial interference in the children's disappearance, the U.S. Marshals Service said. Karnes had custody of the children at the time and learned Friday that they had been found.

    "The first thing that come out of (Karnes') mouth was, 'Did they get my kids, too? Are my kids OK?"' Gila County, Ariz., Sheriff's Detective Johnny Holmes said Monday.

    White waived extradition Monday and will return to Arizona to face charges.

    "I didn't steal my children and I didn't take my children," White said. "When I left Arizona, I had custody."

    White said she has been in the area for nine months. She also claims the children's father knew where they were and could have contacted them.

    "At any time, he could have come and said I want to see them. I wasn't hiding them like they said," White said. "If he had honestly believed I had kidnapped the kids, then why did he wait so long to file a charge of kidnapping?"

    White believes authorities had a tough time tracking her down because the warrants listed her married name, Karnes, and she was going by her maiden name, White.



    A prior version of this story mistakenly reported that Ernest Karnes lives in Halifax County. He lives in Arizona.