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A former aspiring nude model who allegedly kidnapped her daughter in 2014 was apprehended this month after authorities discovered her “emaciated” child surviving on candy and soda in a Texas motel.
Heather Inks, 37, was captured by local authorities at a Days Inn in Madisonville, Texas after the woman called police to falsely claimed she had been poisoned, investigators said. Inks, a federal fugitive who once appeared on daytime talk show "Dr. Phil," vanished with her daughter more than half a decade ago amidst a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband.
On April 3, Inks allegedly contacted emergency dispatchers from the motel claiming her ex-husband poisoned her with a “white powdery substance,” according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com.
When investigators arrived on scene, they said Inks used a variety of fake names and birthdates. One of her alleged aliases, however, was flagged and subsequently matched a fugitive profile of her in a police database. The 37-year-old was detained immediately. She likely invented her own poisoning, law enforcement alleged.
Police then discovered the Texas mother’s “undernourished” 15-year-old daughter, Penelope, in a motel room.
“The juvenile was basically emaciated,” Madisonville Police Chief Herbert Gilbert told Oxygen.com. “Her body stature was very small.”
The child had been “living off” of Dr. Pepper and candy, according to private investigators.
“If you looked at that picture [of her rescue], I think you would cry,” Philip Klein, 61, a private investigator, told Oxygen.com.
The frail teenager was starved, "brainwashed," and subjected to “extreme” psychological” abuse, he said. She hadn't gained any weight or attended school in years.
“Who does that to a child?” Klein added.
The 15-year-old, who was turned over to Child Protective Services, is now recovering at an undisclosed location in Texas.
“She’s being deprogrammed,” the private investigator stated.
Inks and her boyfriend checked into the Days Inn on April 2, a motel manager confirmed with Oxygen.com. However, it’s unclear where she has been hiding out for more than half a decade.
In 2014, a state warrant was issued for Inks’ arrest after she failed to attend child custody court proceedings involving her daughter. She had displayed “a history or pattern of child neglect” and had a reputation for “violating” court orders prior to going off the grid, according to legal documents related to the custody battle.
A year later, she became a federal fugitive and was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
“Parental kidnappings are one of the most challenging violations the FBI investigates because of who the fugitive is and because often times, the abducting parent has fled interstate or internationally to avoid prosecution,” Christina Garza, a spokesperson for the FBI, told Oxygen.com.
Before disappearing, Inks aspired to be a nude model and once dreamt of appearing in Playboy Magazine, according to private investigators, who have dubbed her "The Nude Model Kidnapper."
In 2007, her turbulent marriage was dissected on daytime television during an episode of “Dr. Phil." The segment, entitled, “A Model’s Dangerous Marriage,” explored Inks’ spiraling relationship with her former spouse, Kevin Inks. In the televised recording, the Texas mother accused her then-husband, a religious salesman and her daughter's biological father, of strangling her at knifepoint in front of their daughter.
"You've threatened to crush her to death,” Dr. Phil McGraw blasted Kevin Inks during the show’s taping.
“[You] told her if she was a dog, you would shoot her, held a knife to her throat, twisted her breast when you were angry, taught your daughter to call her the ‘C word,’ and that you imagined going to the kitchen, getting out a steak knife and stabbing her to death."
Kevin Inks, now 49, admitted to McGraw he had an anger problem and was seeking help, but downplayed the physical threats.
“I am trying to get away from [Heather],” Kevin Inks told the talk show psychologist. “I am not trying to attack her. Eventually, I hit my breaking point, and I intimidate her. I do. I get angry."
The taping could now become evidence in Heather Inks' case. Rich de Michele, one of “Dr. Phil’s” senior executives, has since been ordered to turn over “all video footage” of the episode, including release forms, according to a subpoena obtained by Oxygen.com. CBS confirmed they’re complying with prosecutors on Thursday.
“The show did air the episode in 2007 and we have provided a video copy of the episode to the State of Texas pursuant to a subpoena,” a spokesperson for “Dr. Phil” said in an email to Oxygen.com.
The private investigative firm representing Kevin Inks dismissed the show’s portrayal of the couple’s alleged domestic abuse as “false” and “exaggerated.”
Heather Inks filed for divorce in 2011. Prior to dissolving their marriage, however, she again leveled claims of abuse at her former spouse, according to a copy of the divorce petition, which Oxygen.com reviewed. In 2013, a Galveston County judge approved a restraining order against her ex-husband, further court documents show. They had been married since 2003.
Kevin Inks since remarried. In 2017, he was charged with assaulting his new wife, Nicole Inks, according to separate court records. The case was ultimately dismissed.
Heather Inks has been indicted on interference with child custody charges in Galveston County. She also faces federal charges on unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. She’s being held on a $30,000 bond, according to jail records. If found guilty on child custody interference charges, Inks could face a maximum of two years in state prison, prosecutors said. She’s requested a court-appointed attorney, additional court documents show.
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