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Mike Creger, Forum Communications Co., Published March 29 2012

Custody battle raged before boy allegedly taken by father

DULUTH, Minn. – For 15 months, a battle has been raging over 7-year-old Wyatt Nordrum, with the boy bouncing back and forth between his mother and father in a bitter custody dispute.

On Tuesday, the fight reached the public consciousness when a statewide alert was issued alleging he was abducted by his father, 41-year-old James Nordrum Jr. The alert was issued after James Nordrum failed to attend a court hearing where he was supposed to turn Wyatt over to his mother, Candice Nordrum.

As of Thursday, police said they came no closer to locating the father and son.

It was the latest in a conflict that put the boy in the middle of numerous court hearings and unusual allegations of wrongdoing from both sides since at least February 2011.

“He’s a 7-year-old boy,” Terri Port Wright, James Nordrum’s attorney, told the Duluth News Tribune. “If I could say anything to Jim, it would be to bring this kid home, to think about how frightening, confusing and disorienting this must be for him.”

From October until this week, James Nordrum had full custody of his son, court records show. But on Tuesday he agreed to waive that custody after Candice Nordrum’s attorney produced records alleging James planted drugs and guns in his estranged wife’s car in an attempt to get her arrested as she was taking Wyatt to her home in Canada on a visitation in April 2011, records show.

An officer from the BCA testified this month that an investigation was being pursued over the allegation and a search warrant on James Nordrum had been filed, said Candice’s attorney, Craig Hunter.

The registration number on the gun was traced back to James Nordrum’s father, James Sr.

That case resulted in the hearing Tuesday, where attorneys for both parents reached an agreement to give custody back to the mother.

“My client determined it was in his best interest … to transfer custody back to his wife,” Port Wright said of James Nordrum.

Port Wright said she spoke with her client as recently as Monday to discuss the transfer and he gave no indication that he wouldn’t go through with the transfer.

Candice Nordrum had custody of Wyatt, with visitation rights for James, from February until September 2011 after the court found that Wyatt, who has special education needs, hadn’t been attending a school in International Falls while they lived in Canada, as both sides agreed to in a court settlement.

Candice Nordrum is originally from Fort Francis, Ontario, and returned there when she asked for the divorce because, a complaint she filed says, she feared for her safety.

Her petition for the divorce cited drug use and erratic behavior by her husband. His criminal file includes convictions for fifth-degree assault in 1997, methamphetamine possession and fleeing a police officer in 1998, and again in 2006.

The BCA cited mental issues for the father in the alert issued Tuesday, saying he had threatened to harm Wyatt if he didn’t receive custody.

A Facebook page created in Wyatt’s name touches on some of the custody debate from last February, including charges that Wyatt was being kept in Canada illegally.

“I am Wyatt Nordrum,” the Facebook page reads. “I am 6 years old. My mother has stolen me away from my daddy so if you see me … Please tell my mommy & the police that I need to go home!!!”

James Nordrum’s attorney, Port Wright, said allegations such as those were resolved in February when custody was granted to Wyatt’s mother, along with permission to live in Canada.

Investigations editor Brandon Stahl contributed to this report

Mike Creger writes for

the Duluth News Tribune

Attorneys for the parents say there was no word from police Wednesday on where Wyatt or his father might be. A check Tuesday at their home near Cloquet showed that clothes were gone but the father’s car wasn’t.

St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Lt. Jason Lukovsky said some work was done to obtain legal orders to check possible financial transactions made by James Nordrum. Deputies also checked on sightings reported from earlier in the week, before the court date.

Candice Nordrum and her parents have returned to Fort Francis, Hunter said.

“They’re thinking about nothing else but Wyatt,” he said.

Investigations editor Brandon Stahl contributed to this report

Mike Creger writes for the Duluth News Tribune

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