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Milton Times - 04/30/98

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The Flip Side of the 'Mr. Mom' Kidnap

Stephen Fagan was exposed as a fraud last week. He'd been living a lie as Dr. William Martin in Palm Beach, originally posing as widower with the two daughters he'd stolen from his ex-wife 20 year ago.

Once his story became public, Fagan was pilloried by the press, toasted over coffee and subjected to venom usually reserved for mass murderers or pedophiles.

The response in somewhat baffling for a number of reasons. He was no deadbeat dad, in fact just the reverse, and there have been no charges of abuse or neglect on his part.

Fagan's daughters not only appear to be healthy, well-adjusted young women but they also have vowed to stand by their dad. Finally, there are real questions out there about the care given them as children 20 years ago.

Before he abducted his daughters, Fagan had filed three affidavits in court. The statements sworn to and signed by witnesses charged that his daughters, then toddlers of 2 and 5 years, were being neglected, that they had begged for food from neighbors, that they are raw meat and they ware skimpily dressed in cold weather while their mother slept.

Records apparently verify that their mother has been hospitalized for addiction to prescription drugs. She also is said to suffer from narcolepsy, the sleeping disease. With so many questions and unresolved issues, one would expect the public and press to withhold judgment on both Fagan and his former wife.

Instead, none of the circumstances seem to soften Fagan's image. What matters are the madonna and child photographs so eagerly reproduced to flesh out the scandal of the week. What matters is his attack on motherhood.

No one seems disturbed by the fact that Middlesex District Attorney's office had this story since September or even that the mother was informed seven months ago. The case became high priority last week.

If Fagan were a woman, he would be the hero, oops, heroine of this tale, because, short of pulling a Susan Smith and actually killing the kids, mother is usually right.

In fact or Fiction, mom makes real good copy.

A young woman flees in the night from a brutish drunken husband, defies the law, and the disguises her child, takes on a new name and new life successfully. She is courageous and strong.

Such a woman is the daring heroine of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell televised last Fall by Public Broadcasting System.

Who was rooting for law and order while that was being aired? Or, for that matter, who is clamoring for justice and the restoration of family ties for the daughter of Dr. Elizabeth Morgan?

Several year ago, Dr. Morgan Became a national heroine for spending two years in a Washington, D.C. jail while defying a court order to let her ex-husband see his daughter. She too charged abuse but she had neither affidavits nor evidence supporting her charge.

Now she lives in New Zealand and the little girl will never know her father except through the eyes of her mother and grandmother. Her supporters want Congress to let her return return to the United States.

Of course, there is more to the public outcry against Fagan. Let's call it the Danielle Steele twist. A young woman not only runs away but finds safe harbor with a wealthy protector. The book usually ends if she begins enjoying her life of luxury. Applaud here.

In this real-life role reversal, Fagan managed to find two well-heeled wives, and that's repulsive, is it not? Here's a man on his fourth marriage with no visible mean of support except a rich wife and he was driving about in a red Ferrari.

In the past week, has anyone seen or heard mention Fagan's Ferrari without also nothing that it was a 'red' Ferrari? Surely. that's a devil's car. Driving a red Ferrari is a brash and brazen and that $150,000 car will likely croak Fagan.

One way or another, Fagan will suffer for his life choices. If he's a con man with a shady past, he'll serve hard time. Middlesex District Attorney Tom Reilly will be dusting off all the skeletons in Fagan's Closet until one rattles.

On the off chance, a local court doesn't hang him, Reilly will push federal officials to charge Fagan with passport or Social Security fraud or Internal Revenue fraud.

Fagan will pay. After all, it's shameless the way he broke the mold.

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