Florida Mom Accused of Kidnapping Daughter to Avoid Vaccination Caught After a Year in Hiding

Florida Mom Accused of Kidnapping Daughter to Avoid Vaccination Finally Caught
Megan Elizabeth Everett
FBI

08/04/2015 AT 10:55 AM EDT

A Florida mom who allegedly kidnapped her daughter to avoid having her vaccinated was finally arrested in Palatka on Monday, officials said.

Megan Elizabeth Everett, 23, absconded with her then 2-year-old daughter Lilly in May 2014, The Sun-Sentinel reports.

Everett had been involved in a bitter custody battle with Lilly's father, 27-year-old Robert Baumann, according to the paper. Among their many disputes was whether the tot would be vaccinated: Baumann wanted her to be, but Everett did not, family members said.

The two parents had recently come to a shared custody agreement when Lilly and her mom vanished. Everett and Baumann were supposed to swap custody of Lilly every week on Tuesdays, but after Everett didn't show up on May 13, 2014, Baumann called police to report his daughter missing.

He was thrilled to learn that she'd finally been found on Monday. "It's so great, I'm so relieved," Baumann told The Sun-Sentinel while on route to reunite with his now 3-year-old daughter. "It just kind of stunned me; I felt like I was running around with my head chopped off."

Vaccination wasn't the only issue the two parents disagreed on. In a 2014 interview with The Sun-Sentinel, Baumann claimed that Everett didn't want her daughter to learn about black history and "just wanted her to learn about the Confederacy."

And Everett had recently started dating a new man when she disappeared. Her boyfriend, Carlos Lester, was described in court records as a "Confederate flag-waving gun enthusiast." That relationship made Baumann nervous, as he didn't want his little girl around guns.

When she left home, Everett wrote a note to Lester calling him a "great dad," but said she had to disappear for Lilly's sake.

"If I let them take her and vaccinate her and brainwash her, I wouldn't be doing what's right," she wrote. "I cannot let a judge tell me how my daughter should be raised. We will miss you. But I had to leave."

Investigators found Lilly and her mom after their Palatka landlord called in a tip after the case was featured on CNN's The Hunt with John Walsh. They were living under false names.

Everett was arrested without incident, while Lilly was placed in protective custody. Her dad was reunited with her on Monday evening.

"I am so happy to finally have my daughter back safe," he said in an email to The Sun-Sentinel. "We have a long drive home."

Everett's mother, Pam Everett, told the paper she's happy to have granddaughter back as well. "It is a relief, but I have mixed feelings. [Megan] is still my daughter," she said.

Still, she thinks that Lilly is better off with Baumann. "I know her dad will take good care of her and we will do everything we can to help him," Pam said.

Pam explained that her daughter had been studying psychology at Florida Atlantic University when she started "acting erratically."

"She had originally said that however much time she had with her daughter would be worth it," Pam said. It's unclear what prompted her daughter's change of mind.

Everett faces a federal parent kidnapping charge for the incident.

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