Mother Takes Child to Korea for Protection, Charged with Kidnapping

by Antoinnette Borbon

The state’s case against a Korean woman, who allegedly abducted her daughter and fled to Korea, began this morning.

In an opening statement made by Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, he described how Manwi Jo had taken her daughter and fled to Korea to protect her from an abusive situation.

But first jurors got to hear Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount explain how the child’s father had been deprived of his due process and father’s rights.

Mount told jurors how Ms. Jo willfully took the child, avoiding several years of emails sent to her by the child’s father.  He stated, “Even if you do not have a court order for custody, a parent has a right to see his/her child.”

“Mr. Charlton sees his daughter for the first time now at 6-years-old, she didn’t know him.. and that is what we are here for a father’s due process, a father’s rights,” asserted Mount.

Mr. Charlton, the child’s father, wrote Ms. Jo and told her that he would be in Korea. Charlton told Jo that he had ten thousand dollars and wanted to see his daughter, stated DDA Mount.

But Mr. Charlton’s efforts were fruitless. Ms. Jo only sent a response once during the period of 2009 to 2014.

After several attempts to contact Ms. Jo, via phone and emails, Charlton reported it to the Yolo County Child Abduction Unit.

The DDA described Ms. Jo’s actions to be willful. He said she ignored years of emails and kept the child from her father, depriving him of his parental rights.

In Mr.Johansson’s opening he addressed jurors: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the prosecution talks about the pieces of the puzzle, the details and he is correct, things will fit. But what he does not tell you is that Mr. Charlton was abusive and irrational, suffering PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder].”

The defense stated that Ms. Jo had been the sole provider for the child and when the local child support office had first contacted him for support, Charlton denied even knowing Ms. Jo.

“He was not even at the baby’s birth, only church members. Ms. Jo supported herself by waitressing and school loans. He never paid child support,” asserted Johansson.

But I think like the prosecution,” he stated,” I am not trying to cast either in some evil light.”

Johansson explained that the relationship between the two was exacerbating, abusive. Ms. Jo only wanted to protect her child, asserted Johansson.

“She thought she had legal and physical custody and she had immigration issues and was worried,” stated Johansson.

He stated, “You can extrapolate from one’s behavior and she did not just pop up when Mr. Charlton offered the ten thousand dollars.”

“You will hear the police call from Ms. Jo during the domestic abuse and you will read the emails of Mr. Charlton, they start out abusive,” asserted Johansson.

During an argument, Charlton punched a wall, breaking his hand.

He said the father’s story does not ring true.

“After you hear everything, I think you will see how truly sincere she was in trying to protect her child, and find her not guilty,” concluded Johansson.


Taking the stand for the state’s case was the child’s father.

Mr. Charlton, who now is a substitute teacher part time, talked about being born in Fresno but relocating because his father was a winemaker.

He said he got into trouble in his early years and decided to enlist in the army. After a four and a half years of service time, Charlton said he suffered PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) from car bombs while in Iraq.

Charlton was a machine gunner while in the army and had to fire in anger, he said.

After being discharged in 2005, he decided to travel around Europe to decompress.

In 2007, he came to live with his father in West Sacramento and began Sacramento City College, where he met Ms. Jo.

Jo was 11 years older than Charlton but the two began a friendship out of their liking of photography and similar interests.

He said it became intimate and the couple moved in together. But he stated, “It was always rocky, she was jealous and wanted to argue. I often left the house because I did not want to keep arguing, ” explained Charlton.

It was a difference in their philosophy about life, he stated.

Charlton said that, after three months of dating, Jo became pregnant but the arguing became so bad he moved out. It was agreed between the two that they were not compatible and it was not a good environment to raise a child in.

Once Charlton moved out, he tried to keep contact with Ms. Jo but it was on and off.

He said once the baby was born, Jo brought the baby to show him. Shortly after, they got back together until the baby turned one year old.

Charlton stated, “Once again, it was just rocky, we argued a lot, it was passionately good and bad.”

He said during the time they lived together with the baby, the two shared expenses. But he let Jo manage the money because she was better with it, Charlton explained.

His income consisted of disability and a GI bill for school.

Ms. Jo wanted to get married, said Charlton, but she had not gotten a legal divorce from her first husband.

Charlton said, “But I did not want to, I knew it wouldn’t work, we argued too much and I wanted to wait.”

He said it upset Ms. Jo that he did not want to marry.

The two had a joint account at Golden One Bank.

During an October 2009 incident, where police were called to the home of Charlton and Jo, Charlton admitted he grabbed Jo by the neck, throwing her up against a wall because she had shoved the baby at him hitting his head.

But, “I never touched her after that, I was told to leave by police and I did, I just got so angry. Our arguments became more and more heated.”

Charlton said the argument that time began over his watching pornography on Jo’s computer.

Charlton moved out. He said after that he tried calling and emailing Ms. Jo to see the baby but she did not respond.

Once he got served child support papers, he went to court. Ms. Jo never showed up.

A lot of emails written to her remained unanswered, he explained.

“She finally did correspond, telling me she was in New Zealand and wanted child support and money for her storage,” Charlton said.

He kept asking to see his daughter, but she never responded.

He finally headed to Korea in the hope of finding his daughter. It was a failed attempt.

Charlton said he explained his emotional state to Ms. Jo and would always ask to see his daughter in his emails.

Testimony continues in the morning.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. hpierce

    Antoinette… nice piece of reporting.  Seems like multiple perpetrators who are also victims. Except the child.  The child appears to be the only “innocent”.  Whatever happens, I hope the true innocent prevails.

  2. glascor

    She should have never kidnapped the kids. I was alienated from my kids for many years and now have them 100%. What did she think was going to happen if she took the kids. She has no one to blame for herself. What she did is the sickest form of Parental alienation. I don’t have any pity for her at all.

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