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An Idaho couple was accused of kidnapping neighbor’s son. Here is their plea deal

Idaho Statesman

Initially accused of abducting their neighbor’s son, an Idaho couple have been placed on unsupervised probation after they struck a deal because prosecutors were concerned that a jury wouldn’t convict on kidnapping charges.

Alisha and Matthew Rettkowski, of Middleton, were each charged with a single count of felony second-degree kidnapping in September after the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office alleged that they “coordinated a plan” to abduct a teenage boy from his biological mother in Arizona, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The boy’s stepmother told authorities that she thought Matthew Rettkowski had taken the teen. This was because the boy had temporarily stayed with the Middleton couple — who lived across the street from the teen’s biological father and stepmother — when issues arose in the home, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by the Wilder Police Department.

After learning that the Rettkowskis were giving the teen drugs and alcohol, they didn’t allow him to stay there, the affidavit said.

“Following that choice, things became volatile between the families because the Rettkowskis were unhappy (the boy) could no longer live with them,” the stepmother told police, according to the affidavit. The boy’s father then sent him to live with his mother in Arizona.

The prosecution agreed to the plea deal over concerns of jury nullification, because the boy was about two months away from turning 16 when the incident occurred, according to the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office. At that age, prosecutors would’ve charged the Rettkowskis with harboring a runaway — a much lesser charge that is punishable by up to a year in jail, compared to a maximum of 25 years in prison for kidnapping.

“The victim willingly went with the defendants and asked them to come to get him,” a prosecutor said in court. “That’s why the state is agreeing to the (plea deal).”

Both pleaded guilty in April to the lesser charge of custodial interference and were placed on unsupervised probation for two years by 3rd District Magistrate Judge Ryan Dowell, court records showed. Neither will face any additional jail time — unless they violate probation — as Dowell gave them credit for time served and suspended the remainder of a 90-day sentence.

“I mean, obviously if this happens again, it’s not going to be the same situation,” Dowell said in court. “If there’s an attempt to do this again, it’s not going to be custodial interference.”

Father said the Rettkowskis ‘brainwashed’ his son

Dowell also quashed a no-contact order in the case, despite concerns raised by the boy’s father in court that if the order was lifted, his son’s life could be in jeopardy. The teen’s guardian — currently his grandmother — can limit any communication between the boy and the Rettkowskis, Dowell said.

The father said his son is temporarily living with the grandmother, who doesn’t want guardianship of the teen and would be OK with the Rettkowskis taking custody of him. He added that the Rettkowskis had been in contact with his son despite the no-contact order.

“I know if the contact order is lifted the Rettkowskis will try again to take guardianship of my son and he will be back at their residence,” the man said in court.

Court records showed the boy’s mother filed a petition for guardianship in September, and that case is ongoing.

Alisha Rettkowski’s attorney, John Charles DeFranco, said the boy lived with the Rettkowskis for 16 months before they were charged with kidnapping. The teen’s father said the Rettkowskis “brainwashed” his son, allowing him to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana — “almost costing (him) his life.”

“When (my son) disappeared from his mother’s in Arizona, it was mine and hers worst nightmare,” the father said. “We did not know if my son was going to be alive or dead or if we’d see him again.”

The Rettkowskis also made “false claims” to the state Department of Health and Welfare about the teen’s treatment, the father said, and he indicated that both he and his former wife were cleared of any wrongdoing. This was echoed by the prosecution, which said that Health and Welfare wasn’t able to corroborate any allegations of abuse by the parents.

In September, Matthew Rettkowski admitted to police during an interview that he had picked up the teen in Phoenix and brought him back to Idaho, according to the affidavit. He said he knew that he had no “legal standing” to do so but felt he had a “moral obligation.”

“The original act was motivated out of love,” DeFranco said in court. “After this experience, I don’t think they would ever do anything that would jeopardize their standing and what they’ve achieved in their personal lives with their career, their family and their home.”

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