Kansas City father fights to get daughter back amidst custody battle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas City father saw his 5-year-old daughter for the first time in a year and a half on Friday, the latest small step forward in a protracted custody case some believe is indicative of a larger trend.

Kent Kersten’s wife Rasheeba left him to care for their daughter and her child from another relationship in the summer of 2012. In October, Kersten said she asked to take both girls for the night for a birthday party. She never returned.

Now, 18 months later, after an exhaustive search that spanned two states and back-and-forth legal filings between the estranged couple’s counsel, a resolution appears near with divorce and custody proceedings scheduled for this summer and some indications criminal charges may follow.

Kersten believes his case is indicative of a larger trend, wherein fathers who approach police and prosecutors to complain of parental abductions by mothers are met with a lack of urgency or interest in pursuing the case.

“We have seen multiple, multiple headlines where a father has taken a child and the next day there are alerts, there may be AMBER alerts,” Kersten said in an interview on Tuesday. “I have noticed that fathers do get treated far differently by the legal systems.”

Kersten would know. He was Jackson County prosecutor for years, stepping down for health reasons in 2012. He said if he had spent nine months reviewing a case before deciding to file charges, as has happened in his case, “I would have been fired immediately.”

On Friday, Kersten met with his daughter Ava for 22 minutes – their first reunion in 18 months. He said the former daddy’s girl didn’t even recognize him. He left in tears.

“She used to wait for me by the front door. She knew about what time I would get home. As soon as she heard the door, my key in the door, she'd start. I could hear screaming ‘Daddy's home, daddy's home,’” Kersten said. “I miss that the most.”

Last fall, Kersten sought advice from William Warren, a father who faced a similar battle to bring home his own abducted daughter that lasted three years.

Kersten said Warren’s guidance was simple: “Be persistent. Don't assume anyone is going to help you.”

Mrs. Kersten’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening. 

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