14 years on the run are over for Minnesota woman who stole her own children
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Fugitive Mom: 14 years on the run are over for MN woman
Holly Ann Collins, who fled the Twin Cities with her children and vanished 14 years ago, will not go to jail for the crime.
She returned to Hennepin County Court on Tuesday, and tearfully pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of contempt of court. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail. But that sentence was stayed, and Collins will leave court a free woman.
After her court hearing, Holly Ann Collins said she's glad she ran from the law, and from the country, 14 years ago.
"Everyone has to figure out what's best for their kids, but if a mother believes your kids are in danger, you do anything to protect them. You have to figure out what that is, and for me it was running with them, it's the best thing I ever did," Collins said after her guilty plea.
It ends a 14 year run from the law for Collins and her two children, now adults.
Collins says she did it to protect her children from their abusive father, a charge he has steadfastly denied.
Mark Collins always insisted he never harmed her or the kids, and that Holly suffered mental problems.
The couple divorced in October of 1990. Two years of custody battles ensued, until just before Christmas of 1992, when a Hennepin County judge reversed custody of the children, and granted full custody to Mark Collins. Holly could only visit under supervision. Eventually, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
At the time, domestic abuse advocates were outraged, calling the Collins case a "classic example" of the system failing a woman who needed protection.
On June 30, 1994, the children went to a local video store. Witnesses told police Holly met them there. The trio left together, and never came back.
The next day, Hennepin County filed felony charges against Holly Collins, for depriving another of custodial or parental rights.
Collins and the children ran to the Netherlands, and lived the last several years there after that government granted her asylum.
Jennifer Collins, now 23, is an outspoken defender of her mother and her mother's actions. "I have a wonderful life, but I want to come home and I shouldn't not be able to come home because of what my father has done to me. I think my mom's the bravest woman I know and I am forever grateful she got me away on time," Jennifer said after her mother's court appearance.
Jennifer Collins has developed an extensive website, including stories and videos, about their life.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Mark Collins is okay with his ex-wife's plea bargain. "What is good about today, is under a very difficult situation, closure has been reached and the matter is concluded," Freeman said.
Mark Collins did not return our calls seeking comment on the case. (Click here to go to Jennifer Collins' website)
Jennifer Collins was also in court on Tuesday, and hugged her mother after the sentence.
Holly Collins admitted in court that she took the children against court orders, but insisted she did it to protect them from abuse
"I still to this day believe them," she said.
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