After more than eight years on the run and four months awaiting trial, Sharon E. Wimperis is free on bail and telling her story for the first time.
Wimperis, 50, is accused of abducting her son after losing a bitter custody battle in 1990. Until last week, she had declined to speak to reporters since Aug. 5, when FBI agents in Michigan arrested her on a federal warrant.
Her son, Adam, now 13, was returned the next day to the custody of his father, William J. Wimperis of Finksburg.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun last week, Wimperis talked about Adam's life on the run and disputed that he had not had a normal life. She repeated her belief that her ex-husband molested and abused the boy, an allegation William Wimperis adamantly denies and Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. did not believe in 1990.
"If I could have protected Adam and stayed, it would have been my preference," she said in a soft and halting voice. "I still desire to obey the law. I knew he was abused. The choices I made were best for Adam."
Adam was 5 years old when their life on the run began. Sharon Wimperis disputes numerous published accounts that suggest his life was not normal.
It was written that Adam lived in many different states, didn't have birthday parties, friends to play with and couldn't remember his real name, she said.
None of that was accurate, she said.
Adam was in private school for kindergarten and first grade in Indiana, and after that he was home schooled -- Monday through Friday -- every week, she said.
Adam loved to do research and went on lots of field trips, to science and art museums, she said. He was taught art by an art major and learned about computers and computer programming from a professional in the field. Lots of friends helped.
"One, a writer, worked with him on a daily journal," she said.
Sharon and Adam lived in three states -- Indiana, Oregon and Michigan -- during the eight years, but "we visited lots of others," she said. "When friends in Iowa invite you to stay on a farm for two weeks, how can you not take them up on something like that?"
For one trip across the Northwest, from Michigan to Oregon and Washington, Adam helped plan the route, she said. He did geography and history, researching the states they traveled through, learning the state capitals and selecting which attractions to visit. He did math, computing the distance and the gas mileage. He kept his journal, writing about highlights of the trip.
Sharon Wimperis said life on the run did not mean sneaking in back doors, pulling the blinds and hiding in darkened rooms.
"We were accepted in the community," she said. "Adam had friends his age as well as older friends, went to church and did all the normal things."
Most friends knew they had come from what Wimperis called an abusive situation and didn't ask questions, she said.
"Most didn't know enough about us to get into trouble," she said, when asked if she had been concerned her friends would be accused of aiding and abetting a fugitive.
Wimperis insists she told Adam the truth, including the day they boarded an airplane to leave Maryland in June 1990.
"I told him I would always protect him, always tell him the truth, and I made him no promises beyond the minute that we were living," she said.
Adam knew the FBI was looking for him and on three occasions, he saw fliers, Wimperis said.
"He didn't like the computer-generated, age-progression photograph of himself," she said.
Adam did not want to be found, she said.
"He did not want to leave his friends, his church or his school, but he always knew that someday he might have to," she said.
Only once did the FBI get so close to finding them that they had to quickly pack and leave, Wimperis said.
"That was in February 1993, the day before his birthday, but he did have a party," she said. That memory brought on quiet tears.
By court order, Sharon Wimperis may not contact Adam, William Wimperis, William's wife, Brenda, or their children. Visitation must be approved by Adam's therapist.
D. Dusky Holman, a Towson attorney representing Sharon Wimperis, said he would contact the state's attorney's office to see if a visit between mother and son could soon be arranged.
After her arrest in Belleville, Mich., federal charges were dropped and Sharon Wimperis was returned to Maryland and held at the Carroll County Detention Center until Nov. 18, when family and friends helped her pay the 10 percent due on her $100,000 bail.
She must appear Dec. 11 in District Court in Westminster to answer the abduction charges, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail if she is convicted of taking Adam out of Maryland, and 30 days if she is convicted of abducting and keeping him within the state.
Adam's abduction is not in dispute, said Holman.
"At issue is the mitigation," he said. "Sharon's actions were reasonable, based on the best professional advice available to her at the time."
Holman said he and his client would oppose Adam's being called to testify in open court.
"The court will have to look at her state of mind in June of 1990, what caused her to do what she did," he said.
Ask Sharon Wimperis about her state of mind then, and she does not hesitate.
Given the same circumstances, "I would do it all again to protect Adam," she said. "If you are asking if I would do it now, when Adam is 13, I would sincerely hope that the courts would hear him," she said. "I would hope I wouldn't have to make the same choice."
She wishes the courts had listened to the protective services workers who met with Adam in 1989 and urged her to keep him away from his father.
The state's experts saw him briefly, two or three times, and concluded no abuse occurred, Holman said. "A private therapist saw him 47 times and concluded there was."
Last week, William Wimperis would only say: "I think the court record speaks for itself. This will be my first Thanksgiving in 10 years with my son, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Other than that, I have no further comment."
Pub Date: 12/02/98