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Jail for woman in abduction of son

The Union StaffMarshall
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Jim Hankins hasn’t seen his son in 19 years, but he witnessed justice Friday for the woman who abducted the boy.

During an often emotional hearing, Sheree Marshall, who fled California in 1983 with the boy she had with Hankins, was sentenced to a year in jail and three years’ probation.

“I think the judge was fair with it,” the soft-spoken Hankins, a Grass Valley resident, said afterward.



The 55-year-old Marshall – formerly known as Sharon Wood and now a Great Falls, Mont., resident – showed no emotion as Nevada County Superior Court Judge M. Kathleen Butz outlined the sentencing terms.

Marshall must serve at least five months behind bars, and she can apply to serve the remaining time under home arrest in Montana. She also must pay Hankins more than $4,000 in search costs and report to the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility by Nov. 1.




In August 1983, Marshall disappeared with her and Hankins’ 2-year-old son, Jeremy. Hankins hired a lawyer and distributed posters with the boy’s photo. Occasionally, through the years, his eyes tricked him into thinking he saw the boy.

“The whole situation was devastating,” Hankins, 53, told the judge. “It’s been a real saga, and I’ve lost his whole childhood, and there’s no way to make up for that.”

Butz called the case highly unusual.

“I can’t think of anything more devastating to a parent, to a man, a family,” the judge said as Hankins dabbed his eyes while seated next to his wife, Debby.

Marshall also fled with a daughter she had with a Southern California man. Hankins always figured Marshall feared losing custody of Jeremy, which is what happened with yet a third child.

Law enforcement efforts to find Jeremy were exhaustive.

District Attorney’s Office Investigator Bill Beard, whose career started in 1955, said he’s never put more time into a case.

He outlined his search that, starting in 1990, included sending letters and photographs to every California high school.

Marshall and Jeremy turned up last year after the FBI found another Marshall child.

It turned out Marshall stayed undercover by not working and not applying for a driver’s license or using her Social Security number. But her Montana lawyer, Jeremy Yellin, downplayed claims that Marshall was sophisticated in staying undercover. She spent a long time in Reno after the abduction, he said.

In Great Falls, Marshall lives with her husband, Jim Marshall – also in the courtroom – and her ailing mother.

“There are two sides to every story,” Marshall said in court. Without turning to look at Hankins, she said it was his conduct that led to the abduction.

Hankins stood in disbelief, and the judge later dismissed the claims and added a month behind bars to the sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson responded sharply to Marshall’s statement, calling it “a bunch of poison spewed out.” He said it showed a lack of remorse and recommended Marshall be jailed a full year.

Wolfson also called Hankins “a totally responsible person, a good citizen and everything a person in society should be.” Hankins is a father of three children, a Cub Scout leader and a Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital maintenance worker.

Meanwhile, the son who was taken from California is now 21 and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. He sent Hankins a card last Father’s Day, but he also threatened to sever talks if his mother is sent to jail or prison, saying it would be Hankins’ fault.

The judge urged Marshall to tell her son that Hankins isn’t to blame and to encourage a reunion.

As for Hankins: “All I can do is leave the door open, because he’s an adult now.”


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