ROCKLAND, Maine — A Searsmont woman was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in jail for snatching her four children and taking them on a more than 1,000-mile drive away from their custodial parent.
Justice Daniel Billings sentenced 35-year-old Candice Bouchard to three years in jail with all but nine months suspended for four counts of felony criminal restraint by a parent and four counts of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child. Bouchard also will be placed on probation for two years upon her release from jail.
The sentencing comes four months after Justice Susan Sparaco rejected a plea deal for a two-year jail term with all but six months suspended. Billings pointed out that the sentence imposed Tuesday is longer both in the underlying sentence and the amount of time Bouchard must serve. Sparaco had said she would not accept any agreement that did not have Bouchard serving at least 18 months in prison.
Billings pointed out that the nine months was substantially longer than her previous longest jail stay of 40 days. Also, sentences of nine months or less are served in county jails rather than state prison.
During the October 2015 sentencing hearing, the father who lives in Rockport described the nightmare that he and his children endured after their mother took them during what was supposed to be a supervised visit in February 2015. Court records indicate that she put the four children in a two-seat cargo van and drove them to Louisiana. At the time, the two older children were 14 and 10 and the twins were 4. Bouchard was drinking as she drove the children, and they reported feeling the van drive over nearly every rumble strip along the way.
The father told the judge in October, through a letter read in court by the victim witness advocate, that he spent every penny he had on travel, lodging and lawyers in both Maine and Louisiana to locate and bring back the children. He said his ex-wife had previously violated court orders and that the judicial system had failed the family many times in protecting the children from her.
He was able to find the children after his oldest daughter texted a photo to him of the motel where they were being kept.
The father, who did not attend Tuesday’s hearing, has since obtained full custody of all four children.
On Tuesday, Billings also ordered Bouchard to repay her former husband $3,559 for his travel and lodging costs as well as lost wages during the two weeks he searched for his children.
Bouchard, who did not speak during Tuesday’s sentencing, was represented by attorney Caleb Gannon.
At Gannon’s request, Billings agreed to allow Bouchard to begin serving her sentence on Thursday.