BRIGHTON (WXYZ) - The family of a man accused of kidnapping his son is speaking out, saying the father was trying to protect the child.
"He felt like he was forced to do this. He had no other alternative to protect his son," said Kris Nichols, the sister of Mark Grabowski.
FBI investigators tracked Grabowski and his 11-year-old son, Connor Grabowski-Cracchiolo, in Platte, South Dakota Friday morning. Grabowski, who lives in Milford and has joint custody of the boy, was supposed to return the child to his mother, Kelly Evans, who lives in Richmond. When that didn't happen, she reported Connor missing on August 30.
The boy posted a YouTube video saying he had willingly gone with his father so he could start a new life, but Nichols says that video led investigators to the father and son. Connor was placed in South Dakota Child Protective Services' care, and Mark Grabowski was arrested.
"He told me last night when I was speaking to him that if he knew that Connor was safe, and not going to be put in this situation that he's been put in for the last 11 years, that sitting in that prison cell was all worth it for him," Nichols told Action News.
The boy's maternal family says Connor appeared coerced into taping the video, but his paternal aunt denies the charge, saying the father and son were very close. "They had to handcuff my brother, and Connor had a very emotional reaction to that. If my nephew was being held there against his will, I don't think there would be that kind of love and emotion shown toward his father," said Nichols.
Grabowski is currently in police custody in South Dakota.