Tampa mom finally reunited with son after bitter custody battle

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a day Rachelle Smith wasn’t sure would ever happen. After nearly 10 months, she was finally reunited with her son Dexter on Friday.

In August, Dexter’s father Ali Salamey went to his son’s daycare, checked him out and the two flew to Beirut, Lebanon. Salamey had been sending the child’s mother videos while he was in Lebanon. Dexter appeared to be happy and healthy. 

He may have believed he was on a fun trip. But the trip, his mother feared, would never end.

Dexter’s mom and dad have had a rough time of it. He 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 pictures show 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 in September, hundreds of people commented on the Facebook post. One of those posting was Ali Salamey. He claimed Rachelle was 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 e-mail messages 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 three 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 Iove my Son more than anything in this world and I will do anything to protect him.”

In October, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued an arrest warrant for Salamey after charging him with removing the child from the United States.

According to Smith’s attorney, Salamey was arrested in Lebanon and taken into custody.

Rachelle and Dexter are scheduled to return to Tampa Friday afternoon. WFLA has emailed the FBI asking for the status on Ali Salemey.

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