Missing kids found 20 years later in San Jose

February 5, 2009 6:29:54 PM PST
It was a day filled by a rollercoaster of emotions for a Georgia couple who say their children were kidnapped by a relative 20 years ago, and have now been located in the Bay Area. It is an incredible story with a TV movie ending. After two decades, a mother and father will be reunited with their children who are now adults.

The grandfather who was living in San Jose appeared in court Thursday. He will be extradited to Tennessee as soon as possible to face charges there. After being a fugitive for 20 years, he was arrested after a tip. Someone heard him in a bar talking about the abduction and complaining about the way he was protrayed in a newspaper report.

The man who was going by the name John Bunting -- real name Marvin Maple --- kidnapped his grandchildren 20 years ago according to investigators. Those children were stolen from Mark and Debbie Baskin who flew into San Jose International Airport Thursday in hopes of a reunion.

Click here to watch the raw video of the Baskins talking with reporters following their arrival.

"We've prayed for them each and every day like they were alive and asked God to watch over them and bless them and to give them a normal life in the midst of insanity, in the midst of what they have lived through," said Debbie Baskin.

The ordeal started in 1989 when Debbie's parents took eight-year-old Christi and seven-year-old Bobby from their home in Tennessee. The couple brought the children to California and raised them as their own, giving them the names of Jennifer and Jonathan Bunting.

On Monday, the Baskins learned their children are living in the San Jose area.

"Bobby is married now and Christi's got a nursing career, and those are just blessings because we didn't know if they would ever be able to do that or not," said Mark Baskin.

Before taking the brother and sister, Marvin Maple had accused the Baskins of sexually abusing and neglecting the children. The grandparents lost an ugly custody battle when investigators say the allegations proved false, but it turned lives upside down.

"Right now we are just rejoicing in the fact they are alive because my father had said he would kill them before he ever let us see them," said Debbie Baskin.

Police arrested Maple on Monday at his south San Jose townhouse. They say his wife died in 2006. He had numerous friends at the Southside Cafe who all knew him as John Bunting.

"I honestly believe he thought he was doing the right things for his grandkids. I have two grandkids myself and I would trust my grandkids with him," said friend Carl Avery.

Debbie says she will never understand what her father did, but long ago forgave him.

"There is no punishment that can give us back 20 years and what they've done to us and how they slandered us and so there's no punishment, but if I could have him restored to a whole person, that would be wonderful," said Debbie Baskin.

The Baskins have another hope, that the children they lost 20 years ago and are now all grown up, will open the door and welcome a reunion.

"We haven't talked with them. We don't know if they want to meet us at this point or not, but we want to be here," said Mark Baskin.

The Baskins will take part in a press conference Friday morning with local police, along with a Tennessee officer who has been working the case diligently for 20 years.