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Kidnapped children found safe aboard stolen yacht

September 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two children abducted and taken to sea in a stolen sail boat are safe. They were taken by their father on an odyssey that authorities say included a stolen boat, but while the kids are OK, their father is in serious trouble.

The Coast Guard cutter Hawksbill came in to Monterey Bay with the Unleashed, the stolen sailboat in which 43-year-old Christopher Maffei sailed away with his two young children on Tuesday. South San Francisco Police Sergeant Bruce McPhillips announced the successful recovery of the children.

"I'm glad to announce that Devin and Brooklyn Maffei have been rescued from their three-day ordeal at sea," he said.

The Coast Guard says they received notice Friday morning that the boat had been spotted. After launching several craft, including two cutters and aircraft, they shadowed the boat until they were able to come close enough to contact Maffei.

"We asked if we could put a boarding team on board and he said that would be fine," McPhillips said.

Officials say the children appear fine and unharmed. They are back with their mother.

In South San Francisco, the children's grandmother was overjoyed to hear that they were fine.

"The best news; when I get my two grandchildren I'm going to hug them and never let them go," Jean Hipon said.

The Coast Guard, the FBI and several other police agencies, including South San Francisco police, started tracking the sailboat after it was spotted by a fishing vessel 50 miles off the San Mateo coast.

Maffei was taken back to South San Francisco, where he will face charges, including kidnapping.

Kidnapping suspect's violent past surfaces

A woman living in Clearlake says back in 1989 she was assaulted by Christopher Maffei when she lived in the Bay Area. It was a personal injury case heard in San Mateo County Superior Court.

In 1989, Rhonda Straub was working as a park ranger aide at an event known as "Bicycle Sunday" in San Mateo County. Her duty was to keep cars out of the area. That's when Straub says she encountered Maffei, only twenty at the time, who was upset he couldn't get through.

"He jumps out, punches me out, tries to run me over with his truck," Straub said. "I fortunately rolled into my vehicle and he sped off. I got his license number and I struggled, I was pregnant at the time."

Straub says she miscarried the next day. Straub, who at the time used her married last name Schmidt, sued Maffei and the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department and received an undisclosed amount through workers' compensation.

Straub now lives in Clear Lake. Straub contacted ABC7 News after seeing him on the news.

The San Mateo County Superior Court also confirmed that in 2009, Maffei was charged with grand theft, but the case was dismissed.

ABC7 News also obtained a copy of the restraining order against Maffei. The court granted the order because there was reason to believe he might take the children outside of the U.S. after it was revealed Maffei had quit his job, closed his bank accounts, got rid of his assets, and sold his home. The order also points out that Maffei had lived in Thailand and had several bank accounts there.

According to the restraining order, there must be a court hearing on the matter. The judge has asked that Maffei appear in court two weeks, on September 21.


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