Robert Baumann was slugging through the workday on a recent Monday, installing an air-conditioning unit in the slamming August heat, when his cell phone shook around 1 p.m. with an incoming call. He didn’t recognize the number.
“I used to never answer random numbers,” the 27-year-old told New Times last week. “But ever since she went missing, I always pick up the phone. I’ve waited by that phone for the last year and a half hoping for that phone call.”
On the other end of the
Baumann settled in for what was probably the longest 20 minutes of his life. “I was excited and nervous,” he says. “I didn’t want them to be like, ‘Sorry, it’s not her.’”
Only the night before, CNN had shown an episode of The Hunt With John Walsh featuring the kidnapping. In May 2014, Everett had
When the Sunrise detective called Baumann back, he had good news: It was Lilly. The officer told Baumann he could pick her up at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. Baumann rushed to his car for the 320-mile reunion trip.
In Putnam County, Baumann had to wait another hour while police confirmed his identity and updated him on the situation. A local landlord had seen the John Walsh episode the night before, noted the similarities between the descriptions of Megan and Lilly and a pair of new tenants — and subsequently contacted authorities.
Lilly, Baumann learned, had been affected by her life on the run. She thought her name was Mary. She referred to
“It was really an emotional and hard time,” Baumann admits. “I had waited all this time to get her back and she doesn’t know who I am. They did a pretty good job of trying to brainwash a 3-year-old.”
But over the past few weeks, Lilly has improved dramatically, Baumann says. She no longer answers to Mary and, of her mother, says only that she wouldn’t allow TV shows like Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins — which feature nonwhite main characters.
“I don’t say anything bad about her mom because I don’t want to hurt the child,” Baumann says. “Carlos, I don’t give a crap about. I told her that Carlos is a bad man and he lied and he’s a fake papa. She understands now that he’s not her father.
“If you didn’t know what she went through, you would think she’s a normal 3-and-a-half-year-old.”
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"ThekKidnapping charge was declined because case law in Florida says basically that you cannot be charged with kidnapping your own child," the State Attorney office's Kim Fontana explained in an email to New Times. However, Everett is still facing criminal action. "The appropriate charges of Interference with Custody and Removing Minor from State were filed."
Fontana would not comment on whether the kidnapping charge would be dropped against
Baumann was understandably upset about the dropped charge. "You can't tell me any which was to Monday it shouldn't be kidnapping," he said. "If I would have done this, I would have been locked up."