Stephen Fagan, who transformed himself from bar bouncer to a member of Palm Beach, Fla., high society, pled guilty to abducting his two girls and taking them to Florida. But under a plea bargain deal, he escaped any jail time.
Instead, Judge Peter Lauriat sentenced Fagan to pay $100,000 to a charity chosen by his ex-wife, the New England Home for Little Wanderers. Fagan also got a five-year suspended prison sentence and 2,000 hours of community service.
The girls' mother, Dr. Barbara Kurth, was in court but chose not to speak. It was the first time she, her daughters and her ex-husband had been in the same room together since he took the girls from her home.
"I have been living with the loss of my daughters for nearly 20 years. Not a day has gone by in which I have not thought of whether or not they are safe or happy," Kurth said of her ordeal.
In Florida, Fagan went by the name Dr. William S. Martin and raised his daughters as Rachael and Lisa Martin. He passed himself off variously as a doctor, lawyer, CIA agent and advisor to President Nixon, according to published reports, and was married twice to wealthy Florida women who supported him.
Barbara Kurth, meanwhile, hired private investigators to track down her daughters, giving up in 1982 when she ran out of money. An anonymous tip ultimately lead police to Fagan.
Fagan took the girls from his ex-wife after a bitter divorce. While the mother was granted custody of the children after the split, her neighbors reported to Fagan that the then-5 and 2-year old children were left "neglected, endangered, and abused," according to a report read in court.
He moved the children to Florida in 1979, where they were raised under an assumed identity. He told them their mother was dead. Now in their 20s, the girls have steadfastly supported their father.
Daughter Rachael said she and her sister don't feel victimized. They both thanked their father for his support. She said if they could give him retroactive consent to do what he did all over again, they would do so, "without hesitation."
Daughter Lisa agrees. "He was and is the best mother, father and friend anyone could ask for."
Kurth has been unsuccessful thus far in reuniting with her daughters. They ignored her during the court hearing on Friday.
At a press conference afterward, she said: "The only victory here would have been for my daughters to have known and loved me for the past 20 years."