Gabrielle was born via Cesarean section the day after Christmas. "It was the best day of my life," Dahm says. "She had the loudest scream and the strongest lungs right when the doctor took her out. She was a bundle of joy." Because she was premature and still had fluid in her lungs, baby Gabrielle stayed in the hospital for nine days. The hospital also kept Delbecq for four days so she could recover from the procedure.

"Unfortunately they gave Leslie so many drugs in the hospital — Vicodin, Percocet, and other things because of the surgery — that in a sense, it woke up some demons," Dahm claims. "As soon as they let her out of the hospital, after being sober for just over a year, she picked up the bottle again. I could smell the booze on her breath."

Dahm alleges that one night, a clearly bombed Delbecq came home around 9, put down the bassinet containing Gabrielle in the living room, and promptly passed out facedown on the bed, fully clothed. When he searched through her purse, he found a polychromatic array of pills and a baggie of cocaine, he claims. On another occasion, he says, she got into a fender-bender while drunk driving with her baby in the car. When he tried confronting Delbecq about these reignited habits, she got angry and stormed off to stay with her mother at her condo up the road. Meanwhile, Dahm says his father-in-law, the one person he hoped to reason with man-to-man, flat out denied that Delbecq had a postpartum drinking problem.

From left to right: Leslie Delbecq; her mother, Jeanine De Riddere; and her father, Philippe Delbecq. All three are wanted by the FBI on charges of international parental kidnapping.
Courtesy of FBI
From left to right: Leslie Delbecq; her mother, Jeanine De Riddere; and her father, Philippe Delbecq. All three are wanted by the FBI on charges of international parental kidnapping.
Christopher Dahm has kept the room of his daughter, Gabrielle, just as it was when she  was kidnapped by her mother almost two years ago.
Chris Sweeney
Christopher Dahm has kept the room of his daughter, Gabrielle, just as it was when she was kidnapped by her mother almost two years ago.

From Dahm's point of view, the mother-in-law masterminded this chaos. She didn't care that Delbecq was constantly inebriated because it cleared the way for near-around-the-clock access to the infant. One Sunday, he and De Riddere had a dispute over who would spend the day with the baby. Dahm reasoned that he had worked six days that week and deserved a peaceful break with his child. In response, the mother-in-law slapped him across the face and declared in her thick Belgian accent, "Americans are just classless savages." A few days later, Dahm says, De Riddere slapped Delbecq and delivered an ultimatum: Divorce Dahm or be disowned by the family and cut off from its roughly $3 million in savings.

Barely a month after giving birth, Delbecq filed for divorce. It would take nearly a year of judicial jousting to officially dissolve a marriage that had lasted four months. In the process, Dahm's criminal past would unravel for all to see.


On the phone from the other side of the world, Delbecq says her mother always had her back. "My mother was the only person who could stand up to [Dahm]," she explains. "She was defending me. He's accusing my mother because she was in the way; she was in the way of his plans of manipulating me."

The Delbecqs are a small, tight nuclear family forged together by tumult and travel. Leslie's parents met in Zaire, a former colony of Belgium that's now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. When their first child, a son, was conceived, they traveled to England so he would be born with U.K. citizenship. A few years later, when Leslie was about to be born, they traveled to Ann Arbor and birthed a U.S. citizen.

Soon after Leslie was born, the family returned to Zaire and stayed until the early 1990s. Although the country was beautiful and the family led a comfortable life, Delbecq says she contracted malaria and typhoid fever during her childhood. More dangerous than those diseases, though, was her status as a white emblem of Belgian colonialism in a country rife with upheaval. "It was a very dangerous place," she says. "I was at school, and the local army, which had not been paid, had the free will to go attack foreign schools, especially Belgian schools. We had the principal knocking on our door to tell the teacher to lock the door, hide the kids, and get underneath desks... We were the target."

When Delbecq was 11, the French Foreign Legion swooped into central Africa and rescued her family just as Zaire drifted into catastrophic violence. They escaped to Bahrain, a minuscule country near the Persian Gulf. There, her dad had lined up a good job as a commercial pilot. "Our lives got a little better," she says. Eventually her father accepted a job as a pilot with Etihad Airways in the UAE, where he continues to pull in a hefty salary.

The family remained close even when Delbecq traveled thousands of miles to join the Army and go to college in the States. When she moved to Fort Lauderdale for a job teaching English at a language academy, her folks purchased a condo at the nearby Bay Colony Club and planned on eventually retiring to sunny South Florida so they could bask in the golden years with their daughter. But these plans were jettisoned when the family galvanized its bond in a brazen display of lawbreaking.

Delbecq says she had always thought of Dahm as an upstanding citizen. She knew he had a business selling warranties for cars, and she saw him go to an office every day. However, "the second I got married, Chris changed into a different person entirely," Delbecq says. "I was eight months pregnant, and someone came to my house, and they were looking for him. They started throwing rocks. He locked me in. He put a gun, like a 9-millimeter, a loaded 9-millimeter, in my drawer. It was insane, and I started getting paranoid."

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3 comments
rana7071
rana7071

orlando roof leak repair

I actually knew about most of this, but having said that, I still thought it was useful. Nice job! Can I make a suggestion? I think you've got something good here. But what if you added a couple links to a page that backs up what you're saying? Or maybe you could give us something to look at, something that would connect what you're saying to something tangible? Just a suggestion. 

Think
Think

What an oddessy.  If you can't get along, the lawyers win, law enforcement and the courts dictate your unhappiness...  Everybody is happy excpet you.

ChrisSweeney
ChrisSweeney

Chris Dahm's lawyer has sent an email to the New Times raising concerns about some points made in this article. Below readers can find his letter, as well our response to the points made. 

 

Dear Mr Sweeney:Some corrections to your article:Leslie and Chris got married at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale, NOT the St. Regis. The reception afterward was at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.Chris  NEVER gave Leslie a gun to use for any reason. The ONLY loaded gun in the house was in their nightstand, in their bedroom. Chris NEVER said that anyone was looking for him, because they were NOT. Chris  was always very easy to find.In 1995, Chris NEVER went berserk or tore off an arm rest. Chris claims that he NEVER claimed that ANYONE’S condos were sold; he contends  that people who worked for him made those claims to the public, not him. Chris maintains he  NEVER stashed loaded guns around the house, NOR did he ever rip ANYONE off. ALL of the other guns were locked up, and NOT loaded. He further claims that he  NEVER stole ANYTHING from ANYONE. There was never a “lock down” situation at his residence.It should be noted that Leslie had the full opporuntiy to raise her concerns at the trial, which she did, and they were considered by the court in its decision. Please correct your article accordingly. Thank you for your consideration.

 

*Chris  NEVER gave Leslie a gun to use for any reason

We never wrote that Chris gave Leslie a gun. We have her quoted saying that he put one in her drawer. It’s a direct quote. This point is discussed in court documents filed during the divorce by Delbecq. And Chris told me that Leslie discharged the gun when trying to take it out of the drawer on one occasion.

 

*Chris NEVER said that anyone was looking for him, because they were NOT. Chris  was always very easy to find.

This is from a direct quote that Leslie made. Furthermore, the court documents include Delbecq discussing that someone came to their house looking for him. Saying that Chris was always easy to find is subjective.

 

*In 1995, Chris NEVER went berserk or tore off an arm rest

The arrest report that we viewed from 1995 describes how Chris was placed in hand cuffs and put in the back of the squad car. While in the back, he managed to get the cuffs in front of him and “pulled the armrest off.” In the story, this assertion is qualified with “police records show.” He was removed from the car and hit with pepper spray, according to the report. He was charged with ‘resist/obstruction w/o violence,” among other things.

 

*Chris claims that he NEVER claimed that ANYONE’S condos were sold; he contends  that people who worked for him made those claims to the public, not him. 

Chris pleaded no contest to felony fraud charges for his role in the timeshare scheme. The description of the scam in court records includes detailed description of how the scam worked, including that people were told their condos had been sold.

 

*Chris maintains he  NEVER stashed loaded guns around the house

Chris told me that his ex-wife discharged a loaded gun that he had put in the dresser drawer. Furthermore, a court document filed by Leslie states: “Additionally my husband had loaded firearms which he kept in the bedroom where we slept with my infant daughter.”

 

*NOR did he ever rip ANYONE off

Allegations that Dahm ripped people off are in direct quotes from Leslie and they appear in documents filed by Delbecq during the divorce proceedings.

 

*ALL of the other guns were locked up, and NOT loaded

Delbecq claims otherwise. And there is discussion in the second deposition about how the guns were later removed from Dahm’s house and then locked up at his grandfather’s home. Delbecq claimed that Chris had another loaded pistol at his disposal, which he once answered the door holding.

 

*He further claims that he  NEVER stole ANYTHING from ANYONE.

Delbecq claims that he did steal money from co-workers. And, again, Chris’ pleaded no contest to felony fraud charges.

 

*There was never a “lock down” situation at his residence.

In a court document filed by Leslie, she wrote: “my daughter and I, for the brief time we resided with Christopher Dahm, literally were in a lockdown situation with limited transportation.”

 

*It should be noted that Leslie had the full opporuntiy to raise her concerns at the trial, which she did, and they were considered by the court in its decision.

This is abundantly clear in the article.

 

*Leslie and Chris got married at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale, NOT the St. Regis. The reception afterward was at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

Leslie told us twice that the reception was at the St. Regis. However, we will run a correction nothing this point. 

 

 
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