By Ivan Pereira
The Manhattan couple who spent a week on the lam after taking their eight children from a Forest Hills foster care center are now free after serving two months in jail as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, the Queens district attorney said.
A Queens Supreme Court judge sentenced Shanel Nadal, 28, and Nephra Payne, 34, both of Harlem, on Nov. 23 to 60 days in jail for illegally taking their seven sons, all of whom are named after Payne, and baby daughter, Nefertiti out of the Forestdale Foster Center in September, Queens DA Richard Brown said.
The parents admitted their crime last month in a plea deal and avoided prison time for second-degree custodial interference. They were released the day of the sentencing for time served, according to the DA.
“Today’s sentence is a just and fair disposition of this case. The defendants are held accountable for their actions and the children will be spared having to testify against their parents at trial,” he said in a statement Nov. 23.
In addition to their jail time, Queens Criminal Court Judge Elisa Koenderman ordered that Nadal and Payne be placed on three years’ probation, Brown said.
The city Administration for Children’s Services removed the children, whose ages range from 11 months to 11 years, from Nadal and Payne’s custody for undisclosed reasons and placed them in three foster homes in southeast Queens, according to the agency.
The parents contended that the foster families were abusing their children and ACS did not follow up when they raised the issue, according to the pair’s attorney. The agency said it did investigate Nadal and Payne’s claims but did not give further information about the situation.
Nadal and Payne, however, decided to take matters into their own hands.
On Sept. 19, Nadal was with the children at a supervised visit at Forestdale, at 67-35 112th St., and took the children inside for a soda, according to investigators.
She sneaked all eight through a back exit, where Payne was waiting in a black van, Brown said.
The family fled to South Carolina before heading back north to Harrisburg, Pa., but the police were able to track them through their state benefit cards, according to investigators.
Members of the NYPD’s fugitive task force found the family living inside the van, which was parked on a Harrisburg street, Sept. 26 and the children were immediately returned home, Brown said.
Nadal and Payne were extradited back to Queens and in October they made the plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for the smaller jail sentence and the removal of kidnapping charges, according to the DA.
Their children, however, are still in the care of foster parents, according to ACS.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.