Search continues for missing girl
When Tara Budiman describes her 5-year-old daughter Miranda, the superlatives begin to flow and the face that has hidden so much pain in the last 18 months shines with life.
It sparkles with happiness.
"She's beautiful," Tara said. "I know I sound just like a mother, but she is smart and she is creative. She loves to draw and she loves her animals. She's very pleasant.
"And quite obviously, she is very brave."
It has been 18 months since Miranda Budiman became a statistic, her smiling face added to the list of abducted children.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates nearly 1.5 million people most of them juveniles are reported missing. About 24 percent of those missing were abducted by family members.
Tara Budiman believes her ex-husband Clements Iwan Budiman allegedly took their daughter with him back to Indonesia, his native country, where they live in hiding.
Accroding to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway or Thrownaway Children, it is common for a family member to transport a child out of state. The study was done in 1988, but justice department officials say the numbers have held consistently since. However, a new survey is being compiled.
Tara knows her daughter has been asking questions about her whereabouts and it saddens her to think what her ex-husband has told the young girl.
"I know he's told her that I am dead," she said. "It just breaks my heart to think how sad it must be for her.
"It's just very selfish on his part. I would never have taken her totally away from him. It's abusive. It's not fair to her. Young girls need their mothers."
A federal warrant has been issued for Clements Budiman's arrest and the FBI has said it would retrieve the girl once she is spotted. Thanks to a number of missing-children organizations, the search goes on at no cost to Tara Budiman.
It is estimated that thousands of dollars have already been spent in the search for Miranda. Tara has chipped in with fund-raising events like bake sales, but if it wasn't for the efforts of the Missing Children Investigation Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Tara said she isn't sure what she would have done.
"They've done so much for me," she said.
At the top of the list is Albert Schlaegel, president and founder of the Los Angeles-based Missing Children Investigation Center. The organization has successfully rescued children kidnapped by non-custodial parents and guarantees Miranda will be found and returned to her mother.
"He specializes in international abductions and he has a 100 percent success rate," Tara said.
And he guarantees success - with or without the help of the federal authorities.
"The plan is, when we find her, he's going to do a diary and a timeline and take pictures to let me verify that it's actually her," she said. "We're trying to contact the FBI and do it all above-board, but he does actually do recoveries."
That means, if it comes down to it, Schleagel isn't opposed to taking Miranda himself from her captives and bringing the girl to her mother.
Tara has a bag packed at all times, at the ready to pick up Miranda. If Miranda was spotted, the nearest FBI location in Thailand would be located and FBI agents would be dispatched to Indonesia, Tara said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children would then fly Tara to her daughter. The organization has handled more than 73,000 cases of missing and exploited children since being founded in 1984 by John Walsh, whose son Adam was abducted in Florida and found dead.
The center, funded by some of the nation's leading corporations including Kodak, Pepsi and Hallmark, has recovered 48,000 children and boasted a 91 percent recovery rate in the 1990s.
Miranda's profile is posted on the organization's Web site, an interactive site that allows witnesses to give information. The site can be found at www.missingkids.org.