Nearly three months after Christa Finch’s ex-husband sparked a statewide manhunt by abducting the couple’s 3-year-old son from a Cocoa park, the case is expected to end abruptly with a guilty plea next week in an Orlando courtroom.
Paul Martikainen will admit to charges that he kidnapped his son, Luke Finch, amid an ongoing custody battle and fled with the boy on a sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico as a storm approached, court documents show.
The toddler was plucked from the boat and reunited with his mother following a multi-agency law enforcement manhunt that found Martikainen and the boy 140 miles southwest of Fort Myers Beach.
Martikainen, 35, of Palm Bay faces up to three years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of international parental kidnapping.
“I’m sure she would tell you they couldn’t lock him up long enough for her,” said Finch’s attorney, Alan Landman. Finch, of Cocoa, could not be reached Wednesday for comment. A call to her cellphone indicated the number was no longer in service.
“Now she has some closure in her life and doesn’t have to live in fear every time he picks up the child,” Landman said. “I’m sure she would also tell you that once he gets out, from her perspective, he’s not going to see the child again.”
Assistant public defender Stephen Langs did not respond to a message seeking comment.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Steve Cole said there was no formal negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors.
That means Martikainen will enter his guilty plea directly to U.S. Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding and the assigned U.S. District Judge, Gregory A. Presnell, will have total discretion over the sentence.
Typically, judges will order a pre-sentencing investigation after a guilty plea is entered and set off sentencing about 75 to 90 days, court officials said.
“The defendant is pleading guilty because defendant is in fact guilty,” according to court papers filed this week. Martikainen agrees that “were this case to go to trial, the United States would be able to prove those specific facts and others beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Authorities said Martikainen snatched Luke during a Nov. 28 supervised visit at Cocoa Riverfront Park when a court-appointed monitor stepped away to the restroom during lunch. Martikainen drove the toddler to Fort Myers and set sail for Mexico, police said.
Martikainen and Finch divorced in 2005 and had been fighting over custody since April 2008, court records show.
A Brevard County judge had entered an order Oct. 13 establishing child visitation rights, court records show. That same month, the judge appointed a court monitor to supervise visits amid allegations that Martikainen abused Luke.