Mother Took Daughter And America For A Ride

(AP Photo)
Julia Rakoczy, in a photo released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

NEW YORK(CBS/AP) Yesterday, cable news channels were blasting the alert: a mother and her adorable 9-year-old daughter were abducted. The mother had made desperate calls to 911, supposedly from the trunk of her captor's Cadillac.

But today the story has turned. Bonnie Sweeten and her daughter, Julia Rakoczy, were found with $12,000 cash at a Walt Disney World hotel in Florida.

Now police are filling in the details to what started as a story of domestic troubles and quickly turned into a nationally televised rescue operation.

Sweeten's ex-husband and the girl's father, Anthony Rakoczy, said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he thinks she got in over her head and "lost it a little bit."

"I've known this woman for a long time," he said. "She's always been very together, tons of friends. Everybody loves her."

He said he thinks she needs help, and he will make sure her kids will be involved in her life no matter what.

The story came to national attention on Tuesday, when Sweeten made frantic calls to 911. She said two men had bumped her SUV, carjacked her and stuffed her in the trunk of a dark Cadillac. She implied that her daughter was with her in the trunk, according to Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore, who listened to tapes of the calls.

Bonnie Sweeten, of Pennsylvania, faked the abduction of herself and her daughter on Tuesday.

Sweeten, who is white, described her assailants as black but otherwise gave few details about their appearance, Vanore said.

Police found inconsistencies with her story from the start, and noted that they could not find witnesses on the busy road in Upper Southampton Township who saw an abduction. The Denali was found early Wednesday on a downtown Philadelphia street, about 20 miles away, with a parking ticket issued shortly after the calls were made. Police knew the 911 calls were made in the same area.

On Wednesday, The CBS Early Show interviewed a co-worker of Sweeten , who said she gave Sweeten her driver's license because Sweeten claimed she needed it to fix a discrepancy in her 401(k) documentation.

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The co-worker, Jill Jenkinson, said she had no idea Sweeten was about to fake her own abduction and fly with her daughter to Florida and that the request for her license "seemed innocent."

Jenkinson described Sweeten as a good mother who was always on top of things.

Sweeten and Rakoczy were taken into custody Wednesday night at an Orlando hotel, according to Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry.

Henry said Sweeten presented the borrowed driver's license as her own when she bought an airline ticket in Philadelphia and flew to Orlando with her daughter.

"We believe that there were some domestic concerns with her husband and some financial concerns as well," Henry said.

Sweeten has two other daughters, a 15-year-old from a prior marriage and an 8-month-old with her current husband, a landscaper. Julia Rakoczy attended elementary school in Bensalem until she was withdrawn from classes May 1, said Susan Harder, an administrative assistant with the Bensalem Township School District.

Sweeten, 38, of Feasterville, is listed as a director of a New Hope-based charity called The Carlitz Foundation, run by lawyer Debbie Carlitz. The charity's stated goal is raising money for autism research and for people in Burma. Carlitz did not return e-mail or phone messages Wednesday night.

"Bonnie was a very, very organized person," said Susan Cordeiro, secretary of the parent-teacher group at Belmont Hills Elementary School in Bensalem, which Julia had attended. "She was at every meeting, she was very involved. She's on top of her game all the time, even when she was pregnant."