Hillsborough County

Tampa mother pleads for help after dad kidnaps son, flees to Lebanon

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Rachelle Smith wants nothing more to have her 3-year-old son Dexter back in her arms.

But she has no idea when that will happen.  

Dexter's father, Ali Salamey, recently went to his son's daycare, checked him out, and the two flew to Beirut, Lebanon.  

Salamey has been sending the child's mother videos and Dexter appears to be happy and healthy and may believe he's on a fun trip.

The trip, his mother fears, may never end.

Dexter's mom and dad have had a rough time. Salamey threatened to take his son away multiple times.

Rachelle did what some mothers would do, and kept Dexter away from his father for a period of time.

That led to the battle in court and the battle at her home.  

At one point, Salamey broke into Smith's home and took Dexter out of his bed.  

Grainy surveillance video shows what looks like a thief with a flashlight walking over toys on the ground and swiping the toddler out of his bed.  

That led to a burglary and interference with custody charge.

When Rachelle and her attorney, Patrick Leduc, held a news conference in front of Tampa Police Headquarters on Wednesday, hundreds of people commented on the Facebook post.  

One of those posting was Salamey.  

He claims Rachelle is lying and her lies and his lack of faith in the U.S. judicial system pushed him to snatch his son and leave the country.  

He also sent emails to WFLA.  

"I am the father and all I want is to ensure my son's safety. I am not hiding from anyone and have made myself available to anyone," wrote Salamey.  

"I have 3 years of evidence against her including VIDEO EVIDENCE of her admitting lying to police so she can get an advantage in court. I have [meticulous] documentation!  [I] love my son more than anything in this world and I will do anything to protect him."

No matter who you believe, Salamey broke the law when he flew out of the country with his son against a court order.  

Authorities in Lebanon don't play by U.S. rules and therefore are not trying to locate him and take him into custody.

Worse than that, Leduc says, in their eyes, he's done nothing wrong.  

"Lebanon, as a government, is a co-conspirator here. They knew, or should have known, this would happen. They've allowed it to happen. They continue to allow it to happen," said Leduc, who is hoping for help from Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Bill Nelson.  

He believes if the federal government flexes its muscle, that could make a difference.  

"If we have a country out there, or countries out there, that are allowing our citizens to be kidnapped and held against their will in violation of our laws, what else is there? Why does our government exist?"

Smith is heartbroken while she waits for a resolution.  

"It's really like a rollercoaster of emotions. There are moments where I'm screaming, saying, 'no this can't be happening. This can't be happening,'" said Smith.  

"I'm begging God, going to the church in the middle of the night even when it's raining and lightning in front of the church, just begging God to help me."


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