Search widens for mother who allegedly abducted 2 daughters

Search widens for mother who allegedly abducted 2 daughters last month

Officials in Santa Barbara are searching for a mother who allegedly abducted her two children in late February following a custody dispute.

Michelle Gibbs, 44, was last seen Feb. 26, when she left her father’s Ojai home with her two daughters, said Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Earlier that day in a Santa Barbara County courtroom, Gibbs’ ex-husband was restored his visitation rights to their children, 6-year-old Gabriella and 4-year-old Cassidy.

Gibbs' apparent disappearance wasn’t reported until about one week later, when she didn’t show up to her job as an environmental health and safety specialist.

Her ex-husband didn’t report her missing until March 9, after she had failed to comply with a court-ordered visitation. She also had failed to show up to a March 5 hearing over her lack of compliance with the new child visitation.

“She could be anywhere at this point. A lot of time has passed,” Hoover said. “Just the mere fact that she was going to extreme measures in order to keep the children in her custody and take them out of school and violate a court order -- it puts them at risk.”

Because of the lapse of time, the abduction doesn’t meet the eligibility for an Amber Alert, Hoover said.

Gibbs is believed to be driving a silver 2003 Ford Explorer with California license plate 5AXP219. She lives in Orcutt and works in Santa Barbara County. She also has ties to Ventura County, Hoover said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s criminal investigations division at (805) 681-4150. Those who wish to leave an anonymous tip may call (805) 681-4171.

Because Gibbs violated the child custody court order, her ex-husband now has full custody of the children.

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