A former golf pro accused of unlawfully taking his infant son to Mexico was returned to Columbia County on Friday.
William Brown, 38, of Evans, was flown from Mexico City, where he was arrested Thursday, to Atlanta and then turned over to Columbia County authorities, who drove him to their detention center for booking on a felony custody interference charge.
A federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was dropped in lieu of the local charge, which can carry a prison sentence of one year to five years.
"I didn't mean to hurt anyone by my actions," a handcuffed Mr. Brown said as he exited a patrol car. "I love my son very much."
Meanwhile, Lois Brown spent her first full day with her son since 14-month-old Ezekiel "Zeke" Brown was picked up by her estranged husband at an Evans day care center and taken to Mexico about a month ago.
Mrs. Brown, who was traveling and couldn't be reached by phone, arrived in Mexico City on Monday after officials in the U.S. Marshals Service told her they were close to making an arrest.
On Thursday, authorities saw Mr. Brown at a home in Mexico City, which they say was owned by family members of a Georgia acquaintance of Mr. Brown.
"Yesterday he was spotted at that address, and there were baby clothes hanging on the line," said Tom Smith, a supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service who helped find Mr. Brown and Zeke. "It's a myth that people still think that once they cross the border they're free."
Mr. Smith said the investigation would determine whether the acquaintance knew of Mr. Brown's intentions. Mexican officials will be responsible for questioning the Mexican family.
"It could have been innocent on the part of the (acquaintance)," Mr. Smith said. "He (Mr. Brown) might have just said 'Hey, do you have someone I can go stay with,' and (the acquaintance) not know the reason why."
Mrs. Brown, who is accompanied by her mother on her trip, flew from Mexico to San Antonio on Friday.
She was expected to drive back with Zeke and her mother today or Sunday in the 2006 Acura that authorities say Mr. Brown abandoned near San Antonio while en route to Mexico.
Mr. Smith said that when Mr. Brown was arrested, "I think he just thought that immigration was coming there to do paperwork or something. ... So, yeah, I'm sure he was pretty surprised."
Mrs. Brown was reunited with her son just a few hours after the arrest.
Suzy Lipecky, a friend who is caring for Mrs. Brown's other child until she returns, said Friday that she had spoken with Mrs. Brown and that other than a bad diaper rash Zeke was in good condition.
"It's nice to have a happy ending for once," she said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.