Longform

Dash to Dubai: An FBI Fugitive Explains Why She Kidnapped Her Daughter and Fled Fort Lauderdale

Page 6 of 6

And he continues to make enemies. According to court records, Dahm was involved in another legal skirmish recently. This past February, he and a woman named Esmeralda Dekaj were sitting in his car at a red light, supposedly on their way to the gym. Suddenly, Dekaj's husband, a bull of a man named Pjeter whom she had left the night before, pulled up next to them in a white Dodge Caravan. He turned the wheel and bumped Dahm's Mercedes sedan. Rather than risk an awkward situation with another man's wife, Dahm sped away, with Pjeter bumping Dahm's car a few more times.

Immediately after the incident, Dahm filed court documents alleging that Dekaj's husband had committed repeat acts of domestic violence against him. "I thought I was going to DIE," Dahm wrote in the report. "I fear this man will come to my home... and try to hurt me or KILL ME. I AM AFRAID FOR MY LIFE!!!"

Esmeralda Dekaj has since returned to her husband and describes Dahm as a liar who uses his daughter's plight to elicit sympathy. Pjeter Dekaj was charged with domestic violence, and Dahm intends to testify against him. Dekaj would face more than ten years if convicted.


New enemies and old felonies withstanding, Dahm is not the one who is the international fugitive. A Broward judge awarded him sole custody of Gabrielle about a month after Delbecq and her family skipped town. Asked directly about his criminal history, Dahm says, "Things that happened in the past are in the past and have no bearing on the situation. My daughter was kidnapped. I'm the victim of a horrible crime."

He continues to nudge the FBI and the State Department to take action to bring Gabrielle back to the U.S. Now, almost two years since Delbecq ran off with his daughter, he's frustrated with the pace of progress. An email from the State Department just a few weeks ago informed Dahm that the FBI would not be pursuing what's called an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant. A spokeswoman with the State Department explained to Dahm that the FBI does "not believe that this will add any additional benefit to the case as they already have out the federal indictment, arrest warrant, and existing Interpol red notices." The FBI declined to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away, Delbecq says she and Gabrielle lead relatively normal lives in the United Arab Emirates. Delbecq has friends, recently started dating again, and is on Facebook posting semiprovocative pictures in which she looks older and puffier than she does in the FBI's profile. For a wanted fugitive, she's remarkably easy to find.

Delbecq says that a child psychologist diagnosed Gabrielle with separation anxiety but otherwise declines commenting further about her daughter beyond saying, "She's a very happy little girl." As for having once fallen in love with Dahm, Delbecq chalks it up to being a naive 20-something who was a tad too superficial. "Eventually, he cast a spell on me," she says.

For now, both sides carry on their daily routines. And wait. Dahm hopes that one day, he'll receive orders to pack his bags and board the next flight to the United Arab Emirates so he can pick up his daughter.

Delbecq knows that if the U.S. and UAE strike a deal, she and her parents could be sentenced to at least three years in federal prison and have a good portion of their financial assets wiped out. Gabrielle would be handed over to Dahm and potentially never see her mother again.

"I'm wanted internationally. I have a federal warrant against me," she says, summing up her position before she hangs up the phone. "So, yes, I'm a little nervous. But I did what had to be done."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Sweeney