A 49-year-old composer charged with kidnapping his two children was arrested Thursday night in Houston after a two-month manhunt that led officials through at least five states and cyberspace.
Officials are planning to extradite Christopher Yavelow to Baltimore County, where he has relatives and where he will be formally charged with violating a Dutch custody order and kidnapping Celina Yavelow, 13, and Stephanie Yavelow, 10. The entire family had been living in the Netherlands.
The FBI made the arrest about 7 p.m. at Yavelow's friend's home near Rice University after the Baltimore FBI bureau received a tip. His estranged wife, Monique Fasel, who had gone on national television to plead for the children's return, picked them up yesterday afternoon.
"They look OK. They are a little shaken up," said Fasel from Houston, where she was headed for the airport and bound for the Washington, D.C., area. "It has been a difficult time for everyone."
While eluding police, Yavelow -- who was under a Baltimore County judge's order that he return the children -- corresponded by e-mail messages with a county deputy state's attorney and with his estranged wife. He also updated his Web site until the day of his arrest, explaining why he was fleeing from authorities.
Yavelow, who was raised in Towson, also stayed in contact with his parents, who live in Timonium and Baltimore. The ordeal began when the children left the Netherlands with their father on a European vacation in late August. Fasel last month told a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge that she believes the three traveled by boat to the United States.
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John O. Hennegan signed an order Sept. 13 honoring the Dutch custody order after Fasel told officials she had not seen the children since August. The order was necessary for officials to legally return the children to their mother and to arrest Yavelow.
On his Web page, Yavelow -- a Harvard-educated composer -- said he took the children to protect them from their mother and that he was trying to establish a life for them in the United States. On the Web site, he said he believes Fasel threatened the children's Christianity and wanted to take them back to the Netherlands.
He voiced no confidence in the Dutch courts, saying he has seen them force his children "to participate in new age rituals and prevent them from attending church."
On a Web site posting dated Oct. 20, Yavelow says the children "have no idea that hundreds of law enforcement agents are working around the clock, spending a fortune and countless resources on the task of sending them back."
In a Web site dated Thursday , the day of his arrest, he says "the children have one message to their pursuers: 'Please leave us alone!' "
During the children's disappearence, FBI officials confirmed Yavelow contacted a lawyer in Idaho and was spotted in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and Florida. In Mobile Ala., officials said he tried unsuccessfully to enroll the children in public school.
Around that time, the children sent a letter to their mother through Laura Burgraff, 83, Yavelow's mother, who lives in Timonium.
In it, they said they had toured a school, which they had liked. But then their father spotted an article in the paper about them "which made Daddy so nervous and scared that he almost had a heart attack," according to the children's letter, which Burgraff read.
Baltimore County Deputy State's Attorney Howard Merker said he used the Web site to e-mail Yavelow and explain to him his legal options. The fugitive sent three e-mail messages using two different addresses to Merker, asking legal questions.
Merker said he responded to the e-mails and encouraged Yavelow to return and explain to the court why he believed the children were in danger.
"It was interesting," Merker said. "The question [Yavelow had] was what would happen to the children once he got here. He was concerned that they would go to his wife and he would never see them."
A classically trained musician and composer, Yavelow became a prominent figure in the world of computerized music, particularly in the early 1980s.
McGregor Boyle, a professor of computer music at the Peabody Conservatory, describes Yavelow as a leading proponent of new technology in the early 1980s.
Sun staff writer Michael Ollove contributed to this article.