Parents to be reunited with kids kidnapped in seminary days
Police in San Jose, Calif., arrested Marvin Maple on charges he and his wife, Sandra Maple, kidnapped the two siblings during a family dispute that began when Mark Baskin decided to further his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In an episode of the "Unsolved Mysteries" television show in the 1990s, Mark and Debbie Baskin said they expected money to be tight until they could find jobs, and Debbie's parents offered to take the two older children -- ages 8 and 7 -- into their home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the summer, while they headed off to Kentucky with their youngest child, who was 5.
Getting settled took longer than expected, and the children remained with their grandparents until Christmas. During a visit Debbie Baskin had a falling out with her mother and said she wanted to take her children back. The relationship continued to sour to the point that when visiting their children the Baskins were no longer welcome in the Maple home and stayed in a motel.
As allegations by the Maples grew more bizarre -- including that their daughter and son-in-law were part of a satanic cult that practiced animal sacrifices and sexual rituals -- detectives concluded there was no evidence of abuse and recommended the children be returned to their parents.
Before a court order to that effect could be issued, however, the Maples and the two children disappeared. Kidnapping warrants were issued March 13, 1989, and a March 29 court order granted custody to the Baskins, six weeks after the children disappeared.
According to media reports, Mark and Debbie Baskin took time off from teaching jobs in Montgomery County, Georgia, to head for California to be reunited with their two oldest children, whom they have not seen for nearly 20 years. Mark Baskin reportedly recently became pastor of Normantown Baptist Church in Vidalia, Ga., where the couple lives. Attempts to reach the Baskins were unsuccessful.
Mark Baskin, who left seminary after the ordeal and started selling insurance, told the Murfreesboro Post the couple knew they could either grow apart and get divorced or become closer, and they chose to stay together for the sake of their remaining son.
Later they took in a foster son when he was five weeks old, and adopted him at age 1. Now 16, Paul described discovery of his sister and brother as " awesome," while his brother Michael, 25, was delighted but worried.
Mark and Debbie Baskin also don't know what to expect when they are reunited with Christie, who is now 28, and Bobby, 27. Apparently neither child ever tried to contact their parents, but the Baskins don't know what their grandparents have said about them over the years.
Bobby Baskin, who now goes by the name Jonathan Bunting, is married and may have children. "I've been wondering for quite a while I might be a grandparent and not know it," Mark Baskin told the Murfreesboro Post.
Christie, who goes by the name of Jenny Bunting, reportedly has a nursing degree and works in nursing administration. She is single and lives with her grandfather.
Investigators don't know how Maple, who has been using an alias of John Bunting, faked identities for the children, who were homeschooled and sent to college. The children's grandmother is thought to have died a couple of years ago, but detectives from Tennessee planned to check that out while in California for extradition hearings.
Maple, who is being held on a fugitive warrant, reportedly was informed of his extradition rights Feb. 4. A hearing was scheduled Feb. 5 for Maples to either waive extradition or fight being returned to Tennessee to face kidnapping charges.
Given the opportunity, Mark Baskin said he would tell his children he loves them and doesn't blame them for what happened. He has said he doesn't hate his in-laws, but he fears them.
"Anybody who is crazy enough to do this to their own daughter is crazy enough to do almost anything," he said on Unsolved Mysteries.
Sightings of Maple and the children have been reported a few times over the years, but what finally led to his arrest was anger over how the media portrayed him. After reading about the case in the Jan. 12 issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Maple allegedly talked about it, and someone was concerned enough to call the police.
An investigating detective thanked the women for reporting their suspicions. "If they had minded their own business, this wouldn't be happening right now," said Capt. Preble Acton, who investigated the case in the 1990s for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department in Tennessee.
The Baskins also thanked The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has been periodically sending out documents about Christie and Bobby for the last 20 years.
Cold case detective Lt. Bill Sharp said in a radio interview that the Baskins "could really use your prayers."
"It's hard to imagine what's going through their heart right now," Sharp said. "Their children were stolen from them, officially left town 19 years, 11 months and one day before Marvin Maple was arrested in San Jose last night -- almost 20 years ago."
Sharp, the father of two children, said he cannot imagine what it has been like for the Baskins not knowing what happened to their children and missing events like first dates and prom dances.
"You can't move on and get on with your life when you have two vacant and void spots in your heart," Sharp said.
is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
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