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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A fugitive couple, who eluded the law for 19 years until their arrest last week in Utah, say they fled Minnesota in 1984 because they had been wrongfully accused of sexually abusing their 4-year-old daughter.
In interviews Friday and Saturday from Salt Lake County jail, Edward and Karri LaBois told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis they ran because authorities had threatened to take their only child away. They described struggling to get by on low-paying jobs, changing their names and taking care to avoid detection as they moved from California to Idaho to Utah.
The couple faces a Monday hearing in Salt Lake District Court on a request by Hennepin County authorities that they be returned to Minneapolis to face charges of first-degree intrafamilial sexual abuse.
The charges were filed in September 1984, shortly after their daughter told a psychiatrist about sex games at her mother's home day care. After the couple fled, authorities seized nude photos of children and a book about taking sexually explicit photos in their home.
Edward LaBois, 59, said that he would run again if faced with the same situation. The couple knew their lives would be ruined if they became fugitives, he said, but they didn't want their daughter raised in a foster home and supervised by authorities who would "screw with her head," he said.
Their daughter, now 23, was living with them in a Salt Lake City suburb when the couple were arrested Nov. 10, he said. She dropped out of high school, and she and her boyfriend are now raising a son, said Karri LaBois, 49.
After being summoned to court a few times in the summer of 1984, they realized their only child could be taken from them and asked other parents what they would do, Edward LaBois said. "They all said they would flee," he said.
According to charges against the couple, a girl who was in the LaBoises' care had begun playing in the nude at her own home and her mother had asked her why. The child answered that that was how everyone, including the adults, played at the LaBois' Minnetonka home.
Police later found nude photos of children in the LaBois home, which they described as not pornographic but of questionable taste, and a book on taking sexually explicit photographs, records say.
Before long, authorities accused the couple of sexually abusing their daughter, said Edward LaBois. "They don't care if I am innocent or guilty; they just wanted to make a case."
"This was like a witch hunt," Karri Labois said. "I'm not handling this well at all."
At the time of their arrest, Karri LaBois was working at a Target store and Edward LaBois was a bus driver for handicapped adults. Both jobs were in the Salt Lake City area.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)