Julia Rakoczy says trip was 'fun'

June 1, 2009 1:47:49 PM PDT
When 9-year-old Julia Rakoczy's mother took her on a trip to Disney World last week, Julia said the trip seemed "normal" and was "fun." When 9-year-old Julia Rakoczy's mother, took her on a trip to Disney World last week, Julia said the trip seemed "normal" and was "fun." But it turned scary, the girl said, when she saw her own picture splashed across the television as part of an amber alert.

Julia Rakoczy's mom, Bonnie Sweeten, who neighbors called the picture of a suburban housewife, had taken her to Orlando, Fla. from their Feasterville, Pa. home allegedly as part of an elaborate abduction hoax which spawned a massive, nationwide hunt.

In their first live interview, Julia, her sister Paige and her father Tony Rakoczy talked to "Good Morning America" about the ordeal.

"We talk a little bit about it... [Julia] tells us a little bit more and we kind of process the whole thing," Rakoczy, Sweeten's ex-husband said. "We're kind of taking it slow. We're trying to make sure these guys [Julia and Paige] are doing fine... their mother doing what she did... it's just hard."

Sweeten is undergoing counseling, treatment Rakoczy said is "something that we feel is needed."

RELATED VIDEO: Watch Julia Rakoczy's interview on Good Morning America

Sweeten was released from Bucks County Jail Saturday after posting $100-thousand dollars in cash -- 10 percent of the one million dollar bail order -- an unusually high amount for someone facing misdemeanor charges.

Sweeten is facing identity theft and false reporting charges after allegedly calling 911 Tuesday and falsely claiming she and Julia, 9, had been kidnapped after a minor traffic accident in Upper Southampton Township, Pa., and stuffed into the trunk of a car.

But as officials followed up on the alleged emergency in Bucks County, Pa., they believe Sweeten actually was traveling with her daughter to Disney World under the name of a former co-worker. Police claim Sweeten drained several bank accounts and took the former co-worker's driver's license before boarding an Orlando-bound flight.

Rakoczy asked that authorities "cut her a little bit of a break."

"This whole media hype, it's not the person that she is," he said. "I've known her for 20 years."

Daughter: 'Everybody Makes Mistakes'

As the investigation developed, investigators became increasingly skeptical of her abduction tale, which was told against the backdrop of a probe into Sweeten's alleged involvement in the theft of about $300,000 from her former employer, an attorney in Upper Makefield Township, sources close to the investigation told ABC News.

Sweeten also had recently told a friend, investigators say, that she was feeling suicidal. Investigators said friends and relatives noted she was scared in the days prior to her disappearance.

One of the first pieces of information that called Sweeten's version of the "abduction" into doubt was the fact that cell phone records indicated that Sweeten's frantic call to 911 dispatchers reporting her kidnapping in Bucks County actually originated from a location in Philadelphia's Center City neighborhood, and not from the suburb 25 miles away where she lived.

Then an airport video was discovered that allegedly showed her boarding a plane for Orlando about 3 p.m., a little more than an hour after she reported being abducted.

Last week police discovered Sweeten's silver GMC Yukon Denali, which they reported finding unlocked, without keys and with a parking ticket on its windshield in Center City, an area of downtown Philadelphia that is well-known for its bustling restaurants and shops.

Sweeten waived her extradition rights at a hearing in Orlando Friday morning and agreed to face charges in Pa.

"Everybody makes mistakes," Sweeten's 15-year-old daughter said. "She just needed some time obviously, but we're happy that she's okay now and she's home."

Friday's hearing was a preliminary arraignment. Sweeten's formal arraignment is expected to come within a month or two and will be heard by a common pleas judge in Doylestown, Pa.

Sweeten's recent behavior has come as a surprise to family and friends who describe her as the ideal suburban mom.

"She was a good neighbor. She was somebody that would do anything for you," neighbor Denise Faul said. "She would help me with my kids. She would help me with anything."

For Julia, the legal complexities take a back seat to a more simple message she told "GMA" she wanted her mom to hear.

"I love her and I missed her and I'm happy she's home too," she said.

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