Thursday, December 31, 2009


Dateline: Milton

In the summer of 1985 I traveled from my native Chicago to someplace in New Jersey to attend my sister's wedding. On the way, I stopped for the night in Milton, Pennsylvania, just off Interstate 80. There were chain motels like Holiday Inn at the side of the interstate, but I wanted to stay in a place that had some local character, so I drove into town. There was a lovely middle-America town square with a tavern that had Genessee Cream Ale on tap. Delish. I'm not kidding. It's not bad. The whole town reeked of down-home folksiness. The motel was nearly half the price of the ones at the side of the interstate, and it was clean and comfortable. I remember the town fondly. Little did I know that the small hamlet would be thrust into the headlines.

Today it was announced that a wanted fugitive has been hiding in Milton. Hiding in plain sight. The fugitive has been living in Milton since 2000, the same year I moved to New York City. Jill Haugen was arrested after she contacted local police stating she did not want to continue caring for her children. Police in Spokane, Washington had an outstanding warrant for her arrest for custodial interference. She took her two sons and bolted from Washington State when custody was awarded to her ex-husband. The warrant has been on the books for eleven years. Her sons are now fifteen and sixteen years old.

So am I reading this wrong? She takes them when they're a cute four and five years old, and once they become teenagers, she'd rather go to jail than raise them. Ms. Haugen's thought process went something like this- Hmmm... raise two teenagers, or go to jail... raise two teenagers, or go to jail... I think I'll pick jail.

As I read further into the article, she claimed child sexual abuse as far back as 1995. So she's claiming the father sexually abused the two sons at the ages of one and two, and Spokane authorities were not able to substantiate any such claim. The father at the time of the accusation offered to do anything the court requested to prove his innocence. The court ended up awarding the father custody.

So I am forced to go back to the previous question- raise two teenagers, or go to jail? Well, Ms. Haugen has chosen jail. Having spent most of the last eight years in New York City public high schools as a teaching artist, I can understand Ms. Haugen's choice.
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