Mother and daughter return to U.S. after being trapped in Brazil since May


A mother and her daughter who had been held in Brazil since May due to a fierce international custody battle were finally able to return home to the United States on Friday.

Shauna Hadden decided to take the trip to Brazil from her home in Agawam, Mass., in May to visit her ex-husband, Donizete Machado, so that her 6-year-old daughter, Ava, could get to know her father, who had been deported from the U.S. for entering illegally, according to the Associated Press.

But when Hadden arrived in Brazil, she says she received a phone call from a friend warning her that Machado was threatening to keep their daughter from returning home to the U.S.

So Hadden decided not to visit her ex-husband and took Ava to another part of Brazil. But Machado’s lawyer claimed that Hadden had never intended to visit him — and filed for the mother and daughter’s passports to be seized by the Brazilian government.

“That’s when [Machado] said to me, you’re in my place now, things are going to change, it’s my way now,” Hadden told TODAY while she was still trapped in Brazil.

On July 6, she posted on a Facebook page she had made called "Trapped in Brazil": “I have no ill will towards Brazil or Ava's father. We just want to come home. Our passports were illegally seized by the Brazilian government. I am not a criminal and committed no crimes.”

Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal said on his Facebook page on Friday that he worked with the American Embassy in Brazil in an effort to get the Massachusetts natives home. “They should be allowed to return home immediately,” he said in a statement in early July.

On July 10 Hadden shared the news that the Brazilian federal regional judge had ruled to return the two passports and take mother and daughter off the no-fly list. Almost two months after arriving in Brazil for what was only supposed to be a three-week trip, Hadden was able to announce on the Facebook page on Friday, “We are home!!!!!! Love you all thank you all.”

On the TODAY show Sunday, Hadden also thanked those who covered her overseas struggle, “If I didn’t get the media involved, I’d still be in Brazil right now.”