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Attorney's abduction charges dropped

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David A. Downes

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Children's mother says Downes violated custody agreement by taking twins

By Ben Orcutt-borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- On Tuesday, a substitute judge dropped two charges of misdemeanor abduction by a parent against a local attorney.

David A. Downes, 48, of 160 Old Browntown Road, faced the Nov. 17 charges as part of a custody battle over 4-year-old twins he has with a former girlfriend.

Chris Miller, a special prosecutor from the Rockingham County commonwealth attorney's office, asked substitute Judge Julia S. Savage to drop the two charges against Downes based on admissions made by Downes' former girlfriend and the children's mother, Alisha R. Merritt.

Instead of the charges being dropped, Downes wanted them dismissed with prejudice so that the commonwealth could not bring the charges up again later.

However, Savage ruled only that the charges be dropped.

Following what was scheduled to be Downes' trial in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Miller would not elaborate on Merritt's admissions and why he sought to have the charges against Downes dropped.

The charges were class 1 misdemeanors, which carry a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Each charge states that the accused "by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seize, take, transport or detain or secrete [the person], who is a child of the accused, with the intent to deprive that person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to his charge."

In her complaint form on file in the court, Merritt says she sought the charges against Downes after he violated a court order related to custody of the children.

Merritt says in the complaint that she "called day school, children not there." Merritt contacted an airport and Downes had checked in with the children at 2:08 p.m. on Nov. 17 for a 5:15 p.m. flight on United Airlines.

By taking the children on the flight, Merritt says Downes violated a court order and was in contempt.

In a copy of a Nov. 11 order provided by Merritt, Savage declined to grant a motion by Merritt to modify temporary custody of the children.

In a copy of her motion that Merritt provided, she states that she was seeking joint custody of the children and visitation rights that would include overnight visitation "and that Mr. Downes be prevented from taking the parties' two kids out of the country."

In a recent interview, Merritt said Downes took the children on a trip to the Philippines.

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