Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
FATHER ARRESTED ON OLDEST ORANGE COUNTY CHILD ABDUCTION WARRANT FOR UNLAWFULLY TAKING TODDLER SON IN 1976
SANTA ANA – A father was arrested today on the oldest child abduction warrant in Orange County for violating a custody order and unlawfully taking his 20-month-old son in 1976. Donald Evert Rowe, 68, formerly of Riverside, is charged with one felony count of child stealing and one felony count of child detention with right to custody. He faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted. He was arrested by Orange County District Attorney Investigators with the help of the U.S. Marshals on a $250,000 warrant in Tarrant County, Texas, and will face extradition proceedings.
On Nov. 19, 1976, Rowe and his then-wife, Deborah Wilson, completed divorce proceedings and obtained a divorce order granting Wilson physical custody of the couple’s young son, Brian, and Rowe alternate weekend and holiday visitation. On Dec. 3, 1976, Rowe is accused of picking Brian up from Wilson’s Huntington Beach home with the understanding that he would return the 20-month-old child at the end of the weekend. He is accused of fleeing with Brian and failing to return the child to his mother. Wilson reported the abduction to the Huntington Beach Police Department, and several attempts were made to locate Rowe and Brian. A warrant for Rowe’s arrest was issued Jan. 27, 1977.
On or about Dec. 17, 1991, Rowe is accused of unexpectedly returning Brian to his mother after 15 years and fleeing again, this time alone. Rowe is accused of leaving Brian with Wilson because the father and son were not getting along. The defendant is accused of contacting an attorney to discuss turning himself in, but instead went into hiding. Through subsequent investigation, it was learned that Rowe may be living in the Fort Worth, Texas, area under the name Stephen McCallum. He was arrested this morning in Texas at his home in River Oaks.
“We have had an active warrant for this defendant for almost three decades,” said Deputy District Attorney Jim Bacin of the Child Abduction Unit, who is prosecuting this case. “Even though Mr. Rowe returned Brian to his mother in 1991, that does not erase the fact that he committed a crime and deprived Brian’s mother of a relationship with her son for 15 years. That’s an entire childhood.”