Local News

Father Awaits Joyous Homecoming After Alleged Abduction

Posted March 27, 2006 5:36 a.m. EST

— For Ernest Karnes and his wife Melissa, the last three years have been a lifetime. However, the last three days have been a whirlwind.

"Our fear is that it was never going to happen," said Melissa Karnes.

After his ex-wife Shellie was arrested Friday on charges of abducting their two children, Erica and Dusty, Ernest and his new wife Melissa are preparing to see Ernest's children for the first time since 2003.

"I just want to see them and hug them and love them, you know...have them again, you know," said Ernest Karnes.

It's a cross-country kidnapping case with a twist. Shellie Karnes is accused of taking her children from their father's home in Arizona. Investigators say she disguised herself as a man and assumed her ex-husband's identity.

Ernest Karnes said a bill collector eventually led detectives to her home in Roanoke Rapids. He calls the whole thing a miracle, but the journey was a gift. The Karnes' didn't have the means to travel from Arizona to Raleigh. A local businessman was so touched by the story on WRAL that he paid for the plane tickets.

"He is my angel," said Ernest Karnes.

Ernest and his wife still have to appear in a Halifax County courtroom to establish custody, and they'll also have to re-establish memories. But they're convinced the hard part is over.

"It's been a long haul, a real long haul," said Ernest. "I just want to take my babies back home. They need to be with their family."

The Karnes are expected to meet with Social Services in Halifax County on Monday. They hope to see the children Monday and travel back to Arizona later this week.

As for Shellie Karnes, she could face both state and federal charges. The woman she was living with may face charges as well.