A womanin a case that drew international attention is speaking out in her first U.S. interview. Marcelle Guimaraes, a Houston mother, took her son, Nico, to Brazil in 2013, and never returned. She's a fugitive, wanted by the FBI, and charged with international parental kidnapping.
Nico's father has been fighting to bring the boy back to Texas. Now Guimaraes' parents face sentencing on a kidnapping charge for helping their daughter take the now 9-year-old boy to Brazil. They could face as much as three years in prison when they're sentenced Wednesday.
Speaking to our Houston affiliate KHOU's Marcelino Benito from Brazil, Guimaraes insisted she was in a life-or-death situation and told us she's the real victim.
"The world needs to know the truth because I married a monster," Guimaraes said, adding, "My ex-husband's lies and manipulation has destroyed my family, my whole family."
Photos taken inside the home she once shared with her ex-husband, Christopher Brann, show the holes he punched into the walls in fits of anger.
"He would hit me. He would break TVs, he would break chairs, computers, cell phones, tables. It was escalating," Guimaraes said.
In a 2012 email to Guimaraes, Brann admits to pushing her onto the bed and floor and hitting her face.
"When I got in Brazil, I started to get desperate. I knew that my situation was really bad," Guimaraes said.
Guimaraes' parents, Carlos and Jemima, pointed to the alleged domestic violence at their criminal trial in May, but the jury rejected that defense and found them guilty of international parental kidnapping.
The couple were accused of helping Guimaraes by securing her a job in Brazil and enrolling Nico in a school there before their daughter fled.
"Certainly we had a very difficult relationship," Brann said.
Brann, a doctor in Houston, said although his marriage was volatile, U.S. and Brazilian authorities have repeatedly discredited Guimaraes' abuse claims. He said he only hit her in self-defense.
"I was not an aggressor and I was not abusing her physically," Brann said.
Brann hopes his former in-laws will get the stiffest sentence possible, 27 to 33 months in prison, to discourage parental abduction cases in the future.
"This story is about the relationship that I have with my boy and how that's been destroyed by this family," Brann said.
Guimaraes' parents say they can't make their daughter bring Nico back and are being unfairly held responsible for her actions. Until recently, Brann was able to visit his son in Brazil. He hasn't been since February and claims if he goes back, he'll be sent to jail for unpaid child support.