Explainer: On The Run

  • Read the transcript to the Dateline report, which airs Friday, Sept. 10, 9pm/8C. Click on 'next' to see each part of the episode. The full hour will be available for viewing online, Tuesday, Sept. 14.

  • PART 1: A Love Story

    These are, in a way that’s bizzarely literal, stolen moments in a world where doors slam shut and fear is her daily companion.

    WOMAN: (sobbing) I don’t know what to do...

    Will authority come calling?  Will the next knock at the door expose them?  And what will happen then?

    LINDA YAMAN: They could prosecute me if they found out the whole story.

    The whole story?  She means the headlong flight from the law, the night crossing, the fake names… the terror of police…

    LINDA YAMAN: There is a cop looking at me.  Ok!

    And the self-imposed exile with its secret codes, its impossible demands, and her particular hope for the two little girls who are the reason at the heart of the whole disturbing puzzle.

    LINDA YAMAN: How were they going to do that – take them away from me?

    Point your light in that dark place, what might you see?

    This is the story of a life on the run, and the crucial, heartbreaking question behind it.  What answer would you give?

    The only way you’ll know is this: to begin at the beginning.  And that would be the love story.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was immediately attracted to him. 

    Her name is Linda.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was working in the same department where he was studying for his PhD.

    KAREN POLIZZI: I saw it right away.  She really had a twinkle in her eye.  She fell for him immediately.

    Karen, who knew her daught Linda so very well.

    KAREN POLIZZI: We traveled together. Linda says it's quite nice.  I felt very close to my daughter.

    Like sisters, almost.

    So Karen was proud of Linda’s college degree as was her father Sam.  They happily supported their daughter’s decision to return to Detroit Michigan’s Wayne State University.

    KAREN POLIZZI: She was also interested in environment.  But for some reason, she went into another field, cyto-technology

    So she could read lab tests, work in cancer research, but the reason we’re here is, as we say, the love story.

    DR. MARY TRACY BEE: I always remember Linda saying, "I'm not gonna get married."

    It was her lab partner who saw what happened – how Linda suddenly changed.

    DR. MARY TRACY BEE:  She started makin' mention of this guy and she was excited about it.

    It was a cross-culture romance.  Two budding scientists.  He was a visiting PhD student from Turkey – Ozgur Yaman…

    And after they met?  Well.  Linda at lab class was not quite the same anymore.

    DR. MARY TRACY BEE:  She just seemed to have that extra step in her.  You know, like, "Oh, I'm in love," you know?

    It lasted, too.  They dated three whole years while they worked on their degrees.  Linda’s mother Karen would say appropriately good things about her daughter’s new boyfriend… in public at least.

    KAREN POLIZZI: I thought he was fine. He was polite, friendly... He was very nice when I met him. 

    And then in 2000, as freshly minted graduates, they wed.  There was a ceremony in Dearborn, Michigan and then another one in Ankara, Turkey.

    KEITH MORRISON:  How was it being married to somebody from a completely different culture, different kind of background, way different way of growing up, different place?

    KAREN POLIZZI: I thought, oh, here's a person who's, well-educated, likes to travel.  We have similar interests.  We were happy.

    So now they were Ozgur and Linda Yaman.  They settled down in Dearborn.  Two years after their wedding, a baby girl arrived.  We’ll call her Amy, though that isn’t her real name.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was very proud to hold her right after she was born.

    And the whole world was open to their little family.  They didn’t have to stay in Dearborn, not even when more exotic notions beckoned.

    LINDA YAMAN: When I first met him, you know, I didn't know anything about Turkey.  I just thought it seemed like an interesting place – a different thing to do with my life.

    So, just before Amy’s first birthday, Linda had an announcement for her family.  Actually, two. 

    One: she was pregnant again.  There’d be another baby. 

    And two: Ozgur had been offered a prestigious teaching job at an important university back in Turkey. 

    They’d be moving overseas.  The news was not exactly what Linda’s mother Karen had been hoping to hear.

    KAREN POLIZZI: That's not something that I really liked the thought of – my first granddaughter, my only granddaughter, actually.

    But if Karen was unhappy about the move, Linda, as her friends couldn’t help but see, was excited.

    DR. MARY TRACY BEE:  She just had this great attitude about it – “I wanna experience this culture” – and she was really excited about it...

    And so the adventure began.

    LINDA YAMAN (home video): Hello Mom, we’re in Turkey now. We’ll see you later (laughing).

    New land, new culture, new friends, new family.

    And what would happen there?  Well, that gets to the dark heart of it, doesn’t it?

    LINDA YAMAN: He said to me, "You know, I didn't marry you for your looks."  He said, "I married you because I thought you were a nice person.  Now I see you're not a nice person."

    So how it can turn – intrigue, the excitement, and then a moment of suspicion, a whiff of scandal, and happy anticipation dissolves in a private horror.

  • PART 2: A New Baby, Growing Suspicions

    LINDA YAMAN (home video): Hellooo, I am Linda and this is my wonderful husband Ozgur.

    On the face of it, Ozgur and Linda Yamans' new life in Ankara, Turkey, seemed, well, happy. 

    Busy, exciting... big new job for him, brand new country for her... along with a two year old, and another baby on the way,

    It was stressful too, especially as she discovered that this living abroad thing wasn't going to be so easy.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was suffering from culture shock when I first got there.

    Turkey, buzzing all around her in words, habits, and foods she simply couldn't fathom.

    LINDA YAMAN: They are having cold yogurt soup which I don’t eat. It was difficult – going from an English-speaking country to a country where I couldn't speak the language, I couldn't understand.

    Linda's mother Karen flew to Turkey, spent a month there, helping her adjust.

    KAREN POLIZZI: She seemed happy trying to settle in.  

    But when Karen went home, Linda says, she sank into a crushing loneliness.   She was pregnant and overwhelmed by even the simplest things...

    LINDA YAMAN: ...Just going out to the store grocery shopping. 

    To make matters worse, Linda says, it seemed to her that Ozgur, so busy at the university, didn't understand her anxiety.

    LINDA YAMAN: I really felt that I should have the support of my husband during this really difficult time.

    Frustrations boiled.  Fights were more frequent.

    LINDA YAMAN (home video): Don't you remember what we said?

    OZGUR (home video): No, no, no...

    LINDA YAMAN: He was telling me you don't deserve to be married.  You didn't deserve me.  My mom, she noticed it.  She said, "You know, Linda, he's not supportive to you here in Turkey. 

    She opened up in emails to her friend Mary Tracy Bee.

    DR. MARY TRACY BEE: She really had a difficult time communicating.  It just wasn't working out as smoothly as I know she had hoped and planned for.  Every e-mail just kept getting worse and worse and worse.

    Still, in August 2003, when Linda and Ozgur welcomed their second baby into the world – a girl we'll call "Emily" – life seemed much better again.  Ozgur seemed to relish the role of doting father.

    Ozgur's college buddy Mike Whitton...

    MIKE WHITTON: Ozgur was there assisting Linda and taking care of the children.  He loves his kids very much.

    And then... the event... the incident, if that's what it was.  Though when it happened, if it happened, no one said a thing. 

    LINDA YAMAN: We had gone for a family vacation.

    Baby Emily was five months old, Amy was two-and-a-half.  It was a trip home to Michigan.

    And – this is important – they took a brief side trip.

    LINDA YAMAN: For two days and one night we went down to Missouri to visit my grandmother.  And while we were there, the second day, I had to run out.  And while I was out, my husband was there with the kids and my grandmother. 

    KEITH MORRISON: And now came the central moment of our story - the one that would change every bit of family history that came after it.

    ... Ozgur at home caring for the children, Helen, Linda's 82-year-old grandmother, at home with them.

    ... And that's when Helen watched through an open doorway, she would say later, as Ozgur changed Amy's diaper.  The toddler, then two-and-a-half years.

    ... And if only there had been a picture, right then, but there wasn't.

    Linda and Ozgur completed their visit, went back to turkey.

    And then, three months later - three months of torment, said Helen, she told Linda's mother Karen what she thought she saw: Ozgur, as he changed that diaper, seemed to take a long time.  It seemed to her... inappropriate.

    Was her great-granddaughter being sexually molested?

    KAREN POLIZZI: I wanted to tell my daughter as soon as possible and I wanted my daughter to keep an eye on him, to see what was going on.  I felt that my daughter needed to know so that she could protect her children.

    Karen phoned Linda, now back in Ankara, Turkey.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was thrown into a state of confusion.  I didn't know what to think.

    Couldn't be true.... could it?

    LINDA YAMAN: It's very hard for a mother right then.  I was very torn.

    Linda decided not to say a word to her husband. Instead, she talked to her grandmother, whose memory, with the passage of time, now seemed quite certain.

    LINDA YAMAN: I asked her, "You know, are you sure of what you saw?"  And she said, "You know, I'm 100 percent sure of what I saw.”

    So Linda started watching, watching like a hawk, as Ozgur interacted with his daughters.  Before long, her own suspicions began to grow.

    More than once, said linda, when she left Ozgur alone with their girls, she returned to find the eldest daughter's clothes had been changed.  Was that a sign of something?

    And, more disturbing, she actually saw Ozgur showing signs of sexual arousal when he held two and a half-year-old Amy.

    LINDA YAMAN: Everything kind of added up.  I got really afraid. 

    KEITH MORRISON: Did you take either of your daughters to a doctor in Turkey to get an opinion about this?

    LINDA YAMAN YAMAN:  Not in Turkey.

    She contacted the U.S. Embassy in Ankara for help.  The embassy's advice: go home and consult an expert in the United States.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was just feeling like I can't protect my children from my husband there in the house. 

    So one morning soon after, Linda waited until Ozgur had left for work, then rushed to the airport with the girls and flew back to Michigan.

    That evening Ozgur arrived home from the university to discover his family had vanished.

    He waited, increasingly frantic, and finally called her parents’ house in Michigan.

    Unaware that Linda had taken Amy to a child advocacy center called “The Care House” for tests and when Ozgur got Linda on the phone, she told him what her grandmother claimed to have seen.

    LINDA YAMAN: He said, "Oh, Linda.  No, no, no, no, no.  It's a big misunderstanding.  Certainly, I would never do something like that.”  No way you know...

    He was angry, too, he told her. Come home, he said.

    Instead she stayed Michigan, waiting for the results of those tests.

    And?  Inconclusive.  The examiners found no physical evidence to indicate sexual abuse, but, they told Linda, that didn't mean it didn't happen, either.

    LINDA YAMAN: They said they couldn't rule out sexual abuse.

    KEITH MORRISON MORRISON: Inconclusive?  Yeah?

    LINDA YAMAN: It was very emotional time.  Very confusing.

    Confusing? Oh yes. Who could she believe? What should she do? 

    Her mother Karen insisted the allegation was true, begged her not to return to Ozgur.  And he?  Swore it wasn't true... pleaded, come home.

    LINDA YAMAN:  I loved him still.  I missed him.  It was one day with him and you know the next day gone.

    And so, finally, she decided.  Over her mother's objection, she returned to Turkey.  And...

    LINDA YAMAN: That's a decision that I regret to this day, to this moment.

  • PART 3: A Return to Turkey

    LINDA YAMAN: I loved him, I missed him, I was torn.

    Linda was in turmoil.  Had she accepted too easily her grandmother's accusations, and her mother Karen's now undisguised dislike of her husband Ozgur?

    In fact, after many phone calls home to Ozgur, Linda decided her grandmother and mother were quite simply, wrong.  There had been no sex abuse.

    And so, in June 2004, she returned to Ozgur, in Turkey, in defiance of her mother's repeated and very vocal objections.

    KAREN POLIZZI: I was worried about her, actually, because she'd already accused him and I didn’t know what would happen to her.

    But now, back home with Ozgur, Linda was convinced her mother was the problem, not her husband.

    LINDA YAMAN: He says, "It's your mother.  It's your grandmother.  It's, it's nothing to do with you.” 

    She agreed, with Ozgur and abruptly severed all ties with her mother, and set out to restore her marriage.

    And that's when a secret window opened, a window into a sometimes troubled family past.

    It came in the form of an angry letter Linda wrote to her mother Karen's therapist.  Intensely private, of course, or so she thought.

    A few selected quotes about her mother Karen:

    "She told me that she hated my husband from the beginning and that she wished she had killed him before we were married."

    "She would scream at me... if I ever expressed doubts that he was a molester.

    “Lose it. She would do this in front of my two little kids... and throw or break things and they would cry.”

    KEITH MORRISON: Why did her mother Karen think those things?  Because of a dark history of sex abuse, wrote Linda, involving her grandfather, Karen's father and a female member of the family.

    KEITH MORRISON: The abuse went on for years, she wrote, and was so traumatizing for Karen that it made her paranoid inclined to see sexual abuse even where none existed. 

    LINDA YAMAN: Under all of the stress and emotional tension, I bought into that.

    Still, Linda says, she was uneasy so she pleaded with Ozgur to protect the girls from anything that might be construed as sex abuse.

    LINDA YAMAN: Ozgur please make me feel comfortable.  I was hoping things would get better.

    Ozgur complied, or seemed to.

    LINDA YAMAN: He told me basically you know you have to put these thoughts out of your head of this abuse or we just can't continue.

    And then?  Another moment, which would alter all that came next.

    It was evening, two months later, she said.  She lifted Amy from Ozgur's lap and saw what looked like male arousal.  But Ozgur said it was normal, nothing to do with Amy, insisted he wasn't aroused. 

    Linda didn’t buy it.

    LINDA YAMAN: It didn't get into his mind that this kind of behavior is not okay.  He knew it was bothering me, and he just couldn't-- he thought it was okay.  It's okay.

    Then, says Linda, little Amy began to tell her disturbing things – complained that her "pee-pee hurt" and that it was her father who hurt her.

    LINDA YAMAN: I confronted him about this and he said "Absolutely no way."

    But now, Linda's opinion did a complete reversal.

    She decided that her mother and grandmother must have been right after all. 

    And she remembered the advice those child care people back in Michigan had given her: document your suspicions.  So Linda began following Ozgur around the house with a video camera, taping his interactions with the girls.

    OZGUR (home video): Mommy got orders today to video tape.

    And he, furious, afraid she'd leave again and take the children with her, demanded Linda hand over the girls’ U.S. passports.

    LINDA YAMAN: As a show of good faith, I said, "You know, here, I put the passports in his father's safe.  And, you know, I said, "I'm not leaving.  Let's deal with this in Turkey.” 

    But it was too late.  The marriage was over.  At the end of 2004, six months after Linda's return, Ozgur moved out.

    LINDA YAMAN: It was a terrible situation.  He's saying, “I'm gonna take the children away from you” and that was this major fear.  That's when I started looking for help. How can I prove this?

    Linda took Amy to a child psychologist in Istanbul who - she claims - gave her a conclusive answer. 

    LINDA YAMAN: Your daughter was definitely abused by her father." 

    But then, Linda says, the psychologist spoke to Ozgur and heard his side of the story.

    And all of a sudden there was a huge change in what she said.  She said, "I can't write that report the way I was gonna write it now”, which mattered a great deal, because now they were in divorce court, where Linda says she couldn't afford to pay a translator,  so she struggled to understand that Ozgur was asking for custody of the girls and was claiming that Linda was delusional... even schizophrenic... not fit to be a mother.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was a crazy person, you know, saying that he was sexually abusing the girls and it was completely wrong. 

    Then Ozgur introduced that letter Linda sent to her mother's therapist, the one that revealed the family history of sex abuse.

    But don't worry, her lawyer told her – the mother always gets custody.

    He was wrong.

    LINDA YAMAN: The Turkish judge expressed really strong bias.  He said to my husband, "What's your job?"  And he said, "I'm a professor.”  “How old is the child?"  I said it was two.  So he had this look on his face like this can't be.

    Custody to Ozgur.  So was it over?  Well, not even close.

    Linda immediately filed an appeal and was allowed to retain custody of the girls while she waited.

    And a year-and-a-half into an increasingly vicious contest, Linda faced the judge of the court of appeals.  It was decision day again. 

    LINDA YAMAN: Here I was standing there, no translator, (crying) you know, and I get this uneasy feeling that something's going on that's important.  And so he started making his judgment.  I wasn’t sure what was going on.

    And she felt her world fall apart.

    A second court had now ruled custody... to Ozgur.

    LINDA YAMAN: How were they going to do that?  Take them away from me? (sobbing)

    But it still wasn't over.  Linda was allowed one last appeal.  This time all the way up to the Turkish supreme court.

    And again, during the long wait, the girls lived with Linda.

    Except, as you'll see, Linda and her mother Karen were not just idly waiting... nor was the mysterious man they were calling.

    GUS ZAMORA: The grandmother kept calling me and I said "Well, don't do anything crazy.”

    But was it crazy – what they did?

  • PART 4: The Escape

    In July 2007, the supreme court of Turkey announced it had a final verdict in the custody case of Ozgur and Linda Yaman.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was so panicked...

    The daughter Linda accused Ozgur of abusing was now five years old.

    The decision?  Four out of five judges ruled... for Ozgur.

    LINDA YAMAN: I felt that the system had totally failed the girls in protecting them.

    The doubt she'd once felt about her mother's accusations, about her own observations?  Gone now.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was a 100 percent sure that the abuse had happened.

    In a panic, Linda called her parentsback in Michigan.

    KAREN POLIZZI: I was very concerned that immediately, the children would go to him, right then.

    SAM POLIZZI: They had to get out of there quick.

    And in fact, Linda's mother Karen had already put a drastic plan in motion, which involved... this man.

    KEITH MORRISON: What are parents like when they come to you looking for help?

    GUS ZAMORA: They come to us in desperation.

    Karen had gone to her computer, typed in the words "child recovery" and up popped a name.  Tampa-based Gus Zamora, a former army ranger, who specializes in something he calls "snatch-back" – he finds abducted children, returns them to their rightful parents...

    And when Karen told her story, says Gus, he just assumed that Linda had legal custody.

    So he told Karen he'd do it: get Linda and the girls out of Turkey.

    It would cost, he said, about seventy-thousand.

    And so these retired parents re-mortgaged their house, wired the cash to Zamora.

    GUS ZAMORA: I told them that I would need about a week to prepare.  I would get the little girls out of Turkey.

    KEITH MORRISON: You knew it would be breaking the law because the Turkish court had ruled?

    LINDA YAMAN: I knew that.  But whatever consequences there were gonna be for me, that stuff is not as important as protecting those girls.

    So in late July 2007, Gus flew to Turkey and began putting together Linda's  escape plan.

    GUS ZAMORA: We had contacts in Bulgaria.  I had a vast network of associates in Eastern Europe that would do anything for money.

    The plan?  Drive Linda and the girls to Turkey's northern border with Bulgaria. They could be out of turkey in 48 hours.

    But they'd have to move fast.

    GUS ZAMORA: I called Linda.  Everything's ready.  She said, "Oh, well, I can't go."  I said, "Well, what do you mean, you can't go?"  She goes, "Well, I can't be in the car to go with the children when they cross the border." 

    The mother who'd said she so desperately wanted to escape her ex-husband and rescue her kids, now seemed paralyzed by fear, said Gus.

    GUS ZAMORA: It kind of shocked me.  We are stuck in Turkey with the mother who refused to go with the children.  We couldn't figure it out.

    Gus called Linda's mother Karen back in Michigan.

    GUS ZAMORA: She's in a tizzy, demanding that her daughter was going to do what her daughter had to do to rescue the children.  I thought, somebody needs to be in control because Linda was lethargic.  She was afraid.

    Frustrated, Gus started working on a “Plan B” he said was much riskier that would take longer.

    GUS ZAMORA: We were networking a water exit to get to Greece. 

    That's when Karen flew to turkey to give the plan a hurry-up.  Waiting, she told Gus, was not an option.

    GUS ZAMORA: The grandmother contacted us and said "You know we're really worried. He wants to take the children for ten days. We're afraid once he takes them he won't give them back.”

    “Plan B” wasn't ready, Gus told them.  Sit tight.  Wait.

    But the women seemed panicked, he said and suddenly and without any green light from Gus, Linda and Karen snatched up the girls and took off by bus.

    And soon after, Ozgur drove past Linda's house.  It looked vacant.  He called her cell phone.

    LINDA YAMAN: He called and said, "What's going on?  Are you leaving?"  And I said, "No, no, no.  We're coming back, you know?  We're coming back for the weekend."

    But they didn't return.  Days grew into a week, then two, then three.  Ozgur called day and night.  She didn't pick up.  He must be onto them. 

    Anxiety was a fever now.   .

    LINDA YAMAN: I thought the police were going to be looking for us.  Were people gonna be looking for us?

    All nerves now, and in hiding, the women called Gus, begged him to hurry.

    The boat exit was probably a week out. 

    Patience, he told them.  Act normal.

    LINDA YAMAN: There were some times when I was sure somebody was coming. 

    Linda disguised herself, cut, and dyed her hair.

    But one last snag in Gus's escape plan – he couldn't find a boat to rent.

    So instead, he just bought one.

    GUS ZAMORA: They wanted 12,000 for the boat.  I went, "Okay, you know, work your magic.  Get us the boat."

    And finally, in the dark of night, after five frightened weeks in hiding, they gathered up what they could carry and hurried to a local harbor.

    GUS ZAMORA: We put them in a large boat and they took off. 

    Forty minutes, a rough crossing, in the black of night, Linda said, with two little girls hidden in the bowels of the boat to a small Greek island miles from the Turkish coast.

    LINDA YAMAN: I was extremely relieved to be out of Turkey.  It was an incredible feeling.

    But remember, only Linda had her U.S. passport.  Ozgur had the girls’ passports in his safe in turkey. 

    LINDA YAMAN: Is there gonna be somebody checking documents?  Are they gonna find out what's really going on?

    Passports were the next step, said Gus, and he saw them off on the next leg of their escape: a twelve-hour ride on a tourist ferry to Athens.  Linda was to head straight to the U.S. Embassy.

    GUS ZAMORA: I told them you can’t take anything with you that's Turkish.  All your documents, your ID cards, you give ‘em to us.  "Once you get to the embassy tell them that you lost your passports.  You're on vacation.  You live in Turkey.” 

    But it wouldn't be quite as easy as that.  Even though Linda obtained a new report  which concluded, based on interviews with Amy that she had been sexually abused.

    The U.S. Embassy in Athens soon discovered Linda was a fugitive from a legitimate Turkish court order, which granted Ozgur sole custody of the girls, so it refused to issue the girls new U.S. passports.  Linda and Karen phoned Gus.

    GUS ZAMORA: I go, "Well, here's the deal, Linda.  You're out.  You have your children.”  She goes, "Well, the lady in the embassy told me we better find a place to live 'cause they're not giving U.S. passports."

    And that, says Gus, is when he realized the women may not have been exactly straight with him.

    All this time, he told us, he thought Linda had legal custody of her girls.  Had he known the truth at the beginning, he says, he wouldn't have taken the case.

    GUS ZAMORA: We were in a “Catch-22”.  We didn't want to pass judgment and not help them and send the children back to an abusive environment.  This goes back to the old saying that the client is always the enemy. 

    And that was the last Gus heard from Linda: a woman now perpetually on the run.

    LINDA YAMAN: Panic started to set in. 

    KEITH MORRISON: Linda made her way through southern Europe appealing for help from U.S. agencies along the way and finally rejected yet again she realized she had no choice if she wanted to keep those girls.  She would have to disappear perhaps for a very long time.

    She was now stateless.  Homeless...

    LINDA YAMAN: Is there gonna be a warning out about me kidnapping the kids?

    ... and a wanted fugitive.

  • PART 5: Life On The Run

    Where is she now?

    Linda Yaman, daughters in tow, was on the run.  A fugitive from a Turkish court from an ex-husband she'd accused of sexual abuse.  She was a woman terrified of border guards, of police, of capture.

    LINDA YAMAN: I'd put the girls in the little foot area where you put your feet... actually get down on the floor and put some pillows on them so they can't be seen!

    She'd been on the road for months, ever since the U.S. Embassy in Greece denied her request for U.S. passports for the girls.

    LINDA YAMAN: Drove.  One-way rental.  Whenever we would go through a border, I would get very nervous, very tense, adrenaline pumping.

    She started north towards Albania and kept driving through the coastal cities of Europe. Three long months on the road until... they arrived here... and stopped running.

    But still in hiding?  Oh yes.

    LINDA YAMAN (driving): See there.  Oh.  Oh, there he is.  Okay.  Yeah. (nervous laughter) There's a cop looking at me.  Okay, very good.  He was just wondering why I was backing up.

    Dateline first met Linda and her girls, by then six and eight, late last year.

    Here was their apartment: a miniscule secret place in a small western European town – we agreed not to reveal which one – and here they were stuck, wanted by authorities in Turkey, unable to return to America.

    We found a deep sense of sadness here.  (Linda sobbing) A quiet desperation.  (more sobbing) If I focus on the problems, then it's just too hard to go on. 

    Here there was a bed for the girls and a couch for her.

    When it was vital, when she had to go out?

    LINDA YAMAN (driving): It's 7:35 now and I'm going to work.

    She was a scientist once.  She specialized in cancer research.  She cleaned toilets now.

    And, once in a while, someone paid her for an English lesson.

    LINDA YAMAN: We've had to change our lifestyle a little bit.  You know?  You know, we don't go out to eat, don't buy little things,just the basics and necessities. 

    KEITH MORRISON: What is that like for you?

    LINDA YAMAN:  I have two lives, really.  One is this normal me.  I'm this American, you know?  This English teacher traveling around Europe.  The other is the reality.  I'm a refugee with my girls.        

    But she had become used to this life, hiding, one eye over her shoulder.

    LINDA YAMAN: I try to put that out of my head.  You can't function like that on a day-to-day basis

    KEITH MORRISON: Can you use your real name? 

    LINDA YAMAN: I had to use my passport and my real name.

    Had to, she said, to apply for work.

    But just as she evaded the authorities, she also dodged the inevitable questions from her daughters' teachers, from administrators at the school.  She knew a day was coming when she couldn't avoid them anymore.

    LINDA YAMAN: I just dread when there's another time, you know, when the school's gonna ask about their documents. 

    And privately, frequently, she was both sad...

    LINDA YAMAN: I don’t know what to do.

    ... and afraid.

    LINDA YAMAN: I can't go around and cry around my kids.  I have to get ready to go now.

    Only Linda's parents, Karen and Sam, knew where she really was.  They talked by Skype...

    GIRLS (on Skype): Ooooo grandpa!!

    KAREN POLIZZI (on Skype): Hello!

    ... sent care packages for their granddaughters, and having financed their daughter's life on the run, they struggled with worry and debt.

    KEITH MORRISON: There's been considerable amount of personal sacrifice the two of you have gone through.  How much has this cost you?

    KAREN POLIZZI: Everything we own and more.  We mortgaged our home completely. 

    KEITH MORRISON: Now you're up to your ears in debt.

    KAREN POLIZZI: We're over our ears.  Yes. (Laughter) Yeah, we’re about to go under.

    Linda told Dateline the girls rarely asked about their Dad, and she avoided talking about him.

    But even if she wished she could, Linda could hardly ignore Ozgur or the past.

    Once he discovered Linda had fled Turkey with the girls, Ozgur filed charges, accusing her of kidnapping her own children. 

    LINDA YAMAN: If the government found out about the issues about me, you know, they might just deport us from the country.  I can't think about it.  I can't-- I can't think about it.  I just can't. 

    But of course, that is exactly what she did.  All the time.  Every day.

    LINDA YAMAN: I just absolutely hate the idea of having to uproot again and go someplace else, and start again.

    But was Ozgur, even at this moment, looking for them?   How far would he go to get his little girls back? 

    There’s no end in sight.  You know?  Have to hide somewhere again, say my husband was coming after us or something. (Sighs).

    Oh, but something was coming alright.  It was getting very close now.  Though here in her secret hiding place, she could have no idea, as we spoke, just what it was going to be.

  • PART 6: A Homecoming

    LINDA YAMAN: We're definitely in a limbo situation.  Definitely.  It's not good.  No.  It's untenable.  How can you stay in this situation?

    For two-and-a-half years, they'd been living in hiding.  Running from an ex-husband she'd accused of sex abuse, running from the law.

    Linda Yaman and her two little girls.  Somewhere in Europe.  No passports to take them to America.

    LINDA YAMAN: Americans.  We shouldn't go back to Turkey.  Go back to Turkey... I go to prison. 

    She knowingly abducted her children.  She claims she had no choice. 

    So is Ozgur, her ex-husband, a danger to the girls, as she claims?

    Is he guilty of sex abuse?  Not just one but three Turkish courts have said, no, he is not.

    KEITH MORRISON: When you had a chance to think, “Well do I really want to run or not?”  Would you do it again?

    LINDA YAMAN:  Yeah, I would do it again.  Sure. 

    KEITH MORRISON: When we asked Ozgur for an interview, he thanked us for the offer, but declined.  He maintained his innocence.  In emails he called his ex-wife's allegations dreadful, nasty, and cruel.

    KEITH MORRISON: He also said he is heartbroken, he has no idea where his daughters are, and is haunted by the idea that they live as fugitives.

    KEITH MORRISON: He did send us a raft of material these are the Turkish court's opinions.  Along with reports of psychiatrists and other experts who contend that no abuse seemed to have occurred, that Ozgur was a great father and that the children's rightful place is with him.

    Could all of the running, the hiding, the fake names, the terror of police... could it all have been paranoia based on that sordid family history?

    It's a question we put to Linda's mother, Karen.

    KAREN POLIZZI: I-- I cannot talk about that.  It's privacy.  But we did have some abuse in our family, a certain amount.  Well, quite a bit, actually, I think, wasn't it?  I mean, it went on for years.  As far as affecting my relationship or any of our family members, it was never a part of our lives.

    Last year, a high profile law firm in Boston – Bingham McCutchen took on Linda's case pro-bono.

    They filed an appeal with the U.S. State Department on behalf of Linda and her girls, asking the U.S. government to reconsider issuing the girls passports without requiring Ozgur's consent.

    Her attorneys, Beth Boland and David Penn, cited humanitarian concerns.

    BETH BOLAND/DAVID PENN: We have two kids, two little girls, that are totally innocent. We have a mom who was faced with the decision that no mom should ever be faced with, which is to stay there in Turkey and try to work things out with a system that wasn't listening to her.  She gave up everything to leave the country with them.  And now they found themselves as legal nomads.

    Her lawyers claim that even though Linda's case reached the Turkish supreme court, she was railroaded by the Turkish legal system.

    Experts who contended that she imagined abuse where none existed were not cross-examined, said the lawyers.

    They also claim that Ozgur's position as a professor prejudiced the court.

    BETH BOLAND: He holds a very prestigious position in their society.  And you read the court's opinion and it's very clear.  It says, "We find it hard to believe that someone of his stature and status would be able to do such a thing." 

    In Decemberin a closed hearing the U.S. State Department considered their arguments and heard Linda's case for special passports. 

    BETH BOLAND: These girls have been horribly victimized.  They need to live normal lives. 

    The case has presented a thorny diplomatic dilemma for the State Department.  Behind it, a case of “he said, she said” and... Turkey is a key U.S. ally.

    On March 15th, the U.S. State Department issued its final decision...

    It said it found no fault with the Turkish court's decision.

    It warned Linda it will not help her evade Turkish legal authorities.

    So another crushing defeat? 

    Well, no. Because at the conclusion of what appeared to be a stern lecture, the answer was...


    The state department agreed to issue the girls temporary U.S. passports.

    Why?  Because, said the State Department, none of it was their fault and they shouldn't have to live in hiding illegally.

    LINDA YAMAN: This is wonderful.  This is a dream come true.

    And so, for all her worry, it was not the police, not arrest, but relief that came to this drab little European hideout.

    And here we watched as Linda and the girls prepared for the trip home.

    LINDA YAMAN: Some things you just have to leave behind, but I got the most important things... the girls.

    And, for the little girls’ excitement... (Girls having a pillow flight on the plane).

    Then, this past April, she walked with her girls into a U.S Consular Office in Europe.

    At the airport the next day, an official handed over temporary passports for the girls, valid for just five days.

    GIRLS (on the plane): Look, Mommy, something on the plane opened.

    A few hours later, Linda and the girls landed in the U.S.

    For the first time in six years...

    (Airplane intercom): ... welcomes you to the United States of America.

    No happy family reunion at airport. Instead, Linda was greeted by her lawyers.

    BETH BOLAND: We are just ecstatic to have her here and to know the kids are safe.

    Here they were, 6 and 8, in hiding or turmoil for most of their lives.   They hadn't spoken with, or seen, their own father for three years, and it wasn't over yet...

    After all, nothing prevents Ozgur from pursuing his case in U.S courts.

    He certainly could file for the return of his children under an international treaty that requires countries which sign it, both Turkey and the U.S. – have to return abducted children to their home country.

    But if he doesn't, in about two years, Linda can file for legal custody in the U.S. and so finally back on American soil.

    Linda's life as a fugitive continued.

    She went into hiding again – this time to an unknown U.S. location.

    Through her attorneys, she declined our request for a follow-up interview.  As did Ozgur.

    It was love between them once.  Exhilarating... thrilling... and shattered.

    All they share now is the declaration they both carry into battle: they love their little girls.

    Six years of turmoil over an allegation, never proved.

    A broken marriage, a legal nightmare, an international flight from the law, years in hiding, and ahead, even now, a fight whose ending is not at all clear.


    For more on Linda Yaman and her story, her blog is here.

    Learn more about abducted children on HelpFindMyChild.net.

Video: On The Run


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