Kidnapped Boy Stands By The Couple that Kidnapped Him

Monday, March 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) -The couple he knew as his parents face charges of kidnapping him when he was a baby, but 22-year-old Matthew Propp said Monday he has nothing but love for them.

``I sort of came to the conclusion for myself that everything (that) has been happening had been out of love, that they felt what they had done was in my best interest, and it showed how much they truly cared about me,'' Propp said on NBC's ``Today.''

He was headed to a court hearing to show support for Barry Smiley, who with his wife, Judith Smiley, is charged was kidnapping Matthew when he was 15 months old.

The Smileys fled to New Mexico in 1980 after a judge voided their adoption of the boy, whom they had raised since he was 3 days old, on the grounds that his birth mother had not given her full consent. The couple took the aliases of Bennett and Mary Propp. Matthew is identified in the indictment as ``victim.''

Barry Smiley surrendered two weeks ago and was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail. Judith Smiley is unable to travel to New York yet because of arthritis and a knee problem, said her attorney, Steven Brill.

Monday's hearing before Judge Joseph Grosso was a status conference to determine a schedule for handling the case.

Barry Smiley's lawyer, Gene Sarchiapone, said he hopes his client will get nothing more than probation.

But a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney, Mary de Bourbon, said it was unlikely that any aspect of the case would be resolved before Judith Smiley surrenders. She said earlier that she was sure prosecutors would take Propp's views into consideration.

Propp said he just hopes the charges are taken care of soon so he can resume ``what I consider normal life.''

He said on ``Today'' that last summer the Smileys ``basically told me everything that had happened.''

He said he was shocked even though he had sometimes wondered if he was adopted. ``But it never mattered if I was or not, and the fact is I had a great childhood and had two great people raising me.''

He said he has sympathy for what his biological parents went through. ``They're good people, and I hope that from here on out we can establish a bond and a relationship.''

His biological parents, Anthony Russini and his ex-wife Deborah Gardner, spent tens of thousands of dollars on a fruitless search for their child.

In a reunion arranged by prosecutors, Russini greeted Propp with a simple 'I love you.' Gardner, who now lives in the Miami area, declined to attend.