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Father still working to bring daughter back to U.S. from Costa Rica as National Missing Children's day approaches

Taylor Prince of Swansboro and Allison Dowdey, who lived in Emerald Isle before fleeing to Costa Rica, have been in a bitter custody battle over their daughter Hayden since last summer. Hayden is pictured here on a beach in Central America early this year.
Allison Dowdy
File: Taylor Prince of Swansboro and Allison Dowdey, who lived in Emerald Isle before fleeing to Costa Rica, have been in a bitter custody battle over their daughter Hayden since last summer. Hayden is pictured here on a beach in Central America early this year.

Saturday is National Missing Children's Day, proclaimed by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and a local dad continues to search for his missing daughter. Taylor Prince remains hopeful two-year-old Hayden will soon be back in his arms.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children officially declared Hayden Dowdey missing on December 16.

Hayden was declared missing by the NCMEC in December.
Hayden was declared missing by the NCMEC in December.

Taylor Prince, who lives in Swansboro, said he and his ex-girlfriend Allison Dowdey have been in a bitter custody battle over their daughter since last summer – a tug-of-war that also involves the child’s maternal grandparents.

"In the recent months, we found out (Allison’s) parents were coordinating with my daughter's mother to hide her,” he said.

Allison Dowdey lived in Emerald Isle before taking Hayden to Costa Rica, and in an interview at the end of February she said Hayden is at risk from a father she barely knows, and who also showed signs of violence in their dating relationship and of inappropriate behavior with the toddler.

In recent Facebook posts, Dowdey has also called Prince a rapist.

Allison's parents, Michelle and Paul Dowdey, have been subpoenaed in a series of court hearings that began in February. Michelle appeared for all of them, while Paul was not present at the first court date.

During a court appearance earlier this month, the District Court Judge Paul Delamar told the couple that he believes they helped secret the toddler away to Costa Rica, and the allegations against them and their daughter are serious.

And after those claims of sexually inappropriate behavior by Prince were made in court during an earlier appearance, the judge reprimanded Michelle Dowdey – who said she did not personally witness any such behavior – for making the statements but not providing any evidence that would support the claims.

"I'm gonna tell you something, Mrs. Dowdey, I'm real sensitive when people start throwing around communications of sexual abuse without any competent evidence to support it,” Delamar said, “Because people know that's a mark but you can never get rid of it once it’s on.”

Prince said he welcomed the resolution of those accusations, not on social media, but in an eastern North Carolina courtroom.

"Those are very serious accusations,” he said, “They're things that are meant to be taken seriously by myself and by everyone else. If she believes that's the truth, I welcome her to testify before court.”

Prince has filed a civil action against Allison, Michelle and Paul Dowdey that includes civil conspiracy, abuse of the legal process, and interference with child custody; he’s seeking punitive damages.

After Allison Dowdey's recent comments, Prince said he is now looking to add a claim for defamation.

Previous coverage: Father fighting for return of ENC toddler from Costa Rica; mother said she was forced to flee to keep 2yo safe

Taylor Prince and his daughter Hayden Dowdey read together before the toddler was abducted.
Taylor Prince
Bing Hayden Home on Facebook
Taylor Prince and his daughter Hayden Dowdey read together before the toddler was abducted.

Paul Dowdey had been subpoenaed to appear for the February 19th hearing, and court documents show the paper work was served on February 9th. Dowdey admitted to the judge that he didn’t appear because he was in Central America at the time of the hearing.

Just over a week ago, Paul Dowdey was back in court and was charged by Judge Delamar with indirect criminal contempt for the skipped court date earlier this year, which can carry a sentence of 30 days in jail for each incident.

The judge said, "He was in Costa Rica assisting his daughter in evading the jurisdiction of the court by applying for asylum there when he was supposed to be here, and that that was the interference.”

Paul Dowdey was booked into the Carteret County Jail and released. An agreement was reached to allow him to serve a reduced sentence.

Prince said his sole focus is getting Hayden back home to the U.S. and he issued this plea to the mother of his child.

"Allison, I know you love Hayden, and your family, my family loves her too,” he said. “Do you want to go down this route where it lands people in jail where they don't want to be? Do you want to go through expensive court processes that benefit no one? Or would you like to bring her home safely and we can work this out as parents.”

Hayden turned two-years-old in April.
Taylor Prince
Bring Hayden Home on Facebook
Hayden turned two-years-old in April.

While Allison Dowdey, and her mother in court testimony, claimed that Hayden had been granted asylum in Costa Rica, court records show that it was applied for but later rescinded.

Amid the accusations Allison Dowdey has posted on social media have also been updates about Hayden’s life in Central America in recent months, learning a second language and interacting with local wildlife.

“I'm so proud that she's going to have the perseverance of her mother and that she's going to have my intellect and she's probably going to exceed it here pretty soon,” Prince said, “And that's really exciting.”

Public Radio East made several attempts to reach out to Michelle and Paul Dowdey but multiple messages were not returned.

After publication deadline, Allison Dowdey send this statement via Facebook Messenger:

"As a brief statement, I'm grateful Hayden has the opportunity to grow up under a government that shares my prioritization of her physical and psychological safety.

"She's literally not missing, Interpol knows where to find her. The day after I spoke to you, they held her hostage while conducting a serious investigation that ended with criminal charges against her dad for rape and attempted murder. He completely abandoned then wrote 'alienation' into his initial complaint.

"The UN calls for urgent reform to shield children from "immense suffering": https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/06/1138057

"Anyone upset about my legitimate exercise of the human right to pursue asylum when a child is facing "immense suffering", as described by the UN, because of "deeply embedded gender bias within the courts", as described by the UN, should direct their energy to reforming family court until it stops causing children to immensely suffer."

Taylor Prince remains hopeful Hayden will soon be back in his arms, as he fights for the return of his daughter.
Taylor Prince
Bring Hayden Home on Facebook
Taylor Prince remains hopeful Hayden will soon be back in his arms, as he fights for the return of his daughter.

On Saturday's Missing Children's Day, Prince is hosting an event at Swansboro Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to increase awareness of Hayden’s disappearance and the effort to bring her home.

He said, "We're going to do a rock painting event to paint pretty pictures on smooth rocks and to spread awareness for Hayden's disappearance and abduction.”

In 2019, North Carolina U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and a bipartisan group of colleagues introduced resolution that designates April as “Countering International Parental Child Abduction” month.

Under the resolution, federal government officials work to educate state and local law enforcement about the issue and how to combat it.

In May of 2021, Tillis sent a bipartisan letter to the Department of Justicerequesting Attorney General Merrick Garland help in addressing international parental child abduction. The U.S. State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues provides parents with resources to help them seek the return of, or access to, their children.

 In 2022, an annual report shows that there were 657 active overseas abduction cases; 118 were resolved with the return of abducted children to the U.S. and an additional 117 cases were resolved in other ways.

When a child is wrongfully removed from or is being wrongfully retained in a country with which the United States has partnered under the Hague Convention, a parent can file an application requesting that the child be returned to the United States.

Costa Rica is one of those treaty partners.

A GoFundMe has been established to raise the money Prince said is necessary for the legal battle in the return of his child. Find it HERE.

He has also started a Facebook page dedicated to Hayden’s return.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.