Mia, 16, Matthew, 16, and Sawyer Ambrose, 13, remain homeless.
They’ve just made their fourth run – from home to another home – to escape their relentless father’s grasp.
Their father, Christopher Ambrose, a former TV screenwriter whose career was tainted by accusations of plagiarism, won sole custody following a bitter divorce.
Their mother, Karen Riordan, was a special education teacher who sacrificed her career to become a full-time mother.
The tides turned when Ambrose seized control of their finances and filed for divorce, leaving Riordan financially incapacitated.
Over the course of a three-year divorce and custody dispute, Ambrose transferred his case between three different judges. This strategy, sometimes referred to as “forum shopping,” ensured that Ambrose was never held accountable for or had to return funds he allegedly took from his wife.
Ambrose, leveraging connections that included his attorney Nancy Aldrich, whose son, a state senator, played a pivotal role in judicial appointments, secured a legal victory, as Judge Jane Grossman, then under consideration for reappointment, ruled Riordan was alienating the children from Ambrose.
Grossman ordered the children removed from their home with their mother, with whom they lived for 13 years while Ambrose worked in Hollywood and NYC. GrOssman ordered the shocked and traumatized children to live with their father, and imposed a no contact order with the mother with her children.
The children were not permitted to testify and were represented in court by a guardian ad litem, Jocelyn Hurwitz, an attorney, closely aligned with Ambrose’s attorney Aldrich and whom Ambrose, because he had seized the marital funds, paid for, at $400 per hour, and approved her scope of work.
Hurwitz earned over $180,000 for her services. She met the children three times.
The children, under their father’s roof, cut off from contact with their mother and her side of the family, started to raise alarms about their well-being.
Reports of mental health issues, allegations of abuse, and the children’s drastic changes in behavior began to surface. Despite their cries for help, these were dismissed by Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families [DCF] or overridden by the family court.
Judge Grossman overruled a 96-hour emergency hold imposed by DCF after the kids under Ambrose’s care reported abuse.
Represented by the Senator’s mother as his attorney, Ambrose successfully halted the DCF’s ongoing investigation into allegations of child molestation.
As a punitive measure for speaking out, Ambrose confiscated the children’s cell phones and computers.
To quash the children’s attempts to see their mother, Ambrose involved the Madison police in intimidating tactics against the children.
Senator Will Haskell gave the thumbs up for Judge Grossman’s reappointment.
Despite the children’s preference to reside with their mother, Judge Gerard I. Adelman made a final ruling in 2022 that Riordan was guilty of parental alienation, influencing the children against their father.
Riordan’s argument that it was the father’s actions that distanced the children was unpersuasive.
Earlier this year, as Mia and Matthew reached the age of sixteen, and Sawyer turned 13, each in turn fled from their father’s residence.
Mia left in April, followed by Matthew in May, and Sawyer in July.
After a three-year separation, they reunited with their mother in her Madison, CT apartment. Upon returning to his mother, Matthew discontinued his antidepressant medication. Mia ceased her alcohol consumption and secured employment, while Sawyer expressed relief, stating he could finally sleep without fear of his father hopping in his bed.
Determined to get the teens back, Ambrose went to two Connecticut judges, who dismissed Ambrose’s pleas to arrest the mother and compel the teenagers to return to his residence.
In early August, 2023, CT Family Court Judge Thomas J. O’Neill consented to review Ambrose’s request for a restraining order against the mother on behalf of his teen children, who wanted to live with her, not him.
Ambrose secured the services of renowned family law attorney, Alexander Cuda, ex-leader of the CT Bar Association’s family law section, while the financially-strapped Riordan represented herself.
Despite their significance to the case, Judge O’Neill declined the teenagers’ appeal to take the stand and denied Dr. Bandy Lee’s request to testify. Dr. Lee, a prominent figure in forensic psychiatry with accolades including the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education Distinguished Educator Award and the 2019 Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award, had closely examined Ambrose’s behavior and communications.
In a detailed report intended for the court, Dr. Lee labeled Ambrose with “characteristics of psychopathic personality,” emphasizing his predisposition to deceive and manipulate. Her analysis portrayed Ambrose as someone who could attract immense sympathy, leveraging it as a tool to evade responsibility for his wrongdoings.
She said the separation of children from their primary caregiver, as Ambrose had achieved through family court, “is one of the worst forms of abuse, which can have lifelong ramifications, as well as decades of loss of life for each child,”
Judge O’Neill disregarded Dr. Lee’s analysis and opted against hearing the teenagers’ firsthand accounts.
After considering prior decisions by Judge Adelman and hearing two days of Ambrose detailing his longing for his children and condemning the mother for allegedly distancing them from his affection, Judge O’Neill rendered his verdict. Influenced by Attorney Cuda’s adept cross-examination of a defenseless Riordan, Judge O’Neill ruled that Riordan had indoctrinated the teenagers to level “non-credible” claims against Ambrose.
He imposed a one-year restraining order, prohibiting Riordan from establishing any contact with her children.
While both the judge and Ambrose might have anticipated the teenagers’ return to their father’s custody, the teens opted to flee the state and seek refuge with their maternal grandfather in Rhode Island.
They spent approximately a month reconnecting with their grandfather in Narragansett, a man who was more of a father during their upbringing than mostly-absent Ambrose.
Memories of joyful summers spent at the grandfather’s beachside residence, surrounded by family, flooded back — a stark contrast to the isolation imposed by Ambrose over the previous three years, barring any contact with their mother’s side of the family.
The situation took a dark turn when Ambrose, flaunting his legal victories, threatened to arrive with DCF and law enforcement to reclaim the teens.
The grandfather, urging Ambrose to prioritize the children’s welfare, pointed out the detrimental impact of Ambrose’s relentless court battles. Despite having invested over a million dollars to secure custody, Ambrose faced the ironic outcome of his children being deeply fearful of him.
However, with the backing of the court’s decision (and knowing that the million he spent came out of Riordan’s share), Ambrose remained resolute in his intentions. He planned to force the teens back to his home.
Sensing impending danger, the teenagers, grateful for the month-long respite, ran away again, seeking safety.
During the few months Mia lived with her mother, she worked and with saved earnings, she and her resourceful siblings found their way to Mount Pleasant, Westchester County, New York.
They sought refuge with a family friend who had known them their entire lives, but was estranged due to Ambrose’s restrictive directives, which prohibited them from contacting her or any friends they knew before Ct Family Court took them away from their mother, family, and friends to live with their father — to protect them from parental alienation.
Their brief period of solace abruptly halted when Ambrose, accompanied by Mount Pleasant police and New York State Child Protection Services (CPS), arrived at the Mount Pleasant residence.
Opting to remain outside, Ambrose left the confrontational duties to the authorities.
Inside, the siblings refused to go with Ambrose. Their stand prompted CPS to caution the woman who had taken them in, and her husband, with potential arrests.
To further pressure the teens, Mount Pleasant police painted a picture of a potential placement at the Pleasantville Cottage School, suggesting the likelihood of rape and violence there.
Told to go back with Ambrose because they were missing school, the teens argued for continuing schooling in their present location.
They were informed that Ambrose would only consent to their education in Connecticut or the dangerous Cottage School.
After an intense four-hour standoff, neither the children nor the compassionate couple were arrested.
CPS indicated their intention to return with police and a court order to forcibly take the kids out of the home.
The teens ran away again, marking their fourth escape attempt from their father.
In a dangerous game of high-stakes escalation, upon discovering the teens’ absence in the morning, Ambrose reported a suspected abduction, painting Riordan as a potentially dangerous psychopath.
This alarm led to the assembly of a 20-person inter-jurisdictional task force, encompassing local and New York state police, as well as FBI agents. Acting on Ambrose’s tip, they converged upon a residence where Riordan visited a friend.
The SWAT team stormed the house with guns drawn, anticipating a possible confrontation and expecting to find the teens with their mother. Their primary objective was the arrest of Riordan for alleged kidnapping, and the retrieval of the teens to reunite them with Ambrose.
However, the SWAT team found neither the teens nor any evidence of their presence at the location.
Adding to the escalation of the situation, Mount Pleasant police revisited the residence where the teens had previously taken shelter. They confiscated the homeowner’s phone based on Ambrose’s assertion that it would provide evidence of Riordan’s communication with her.
Contrary to Ambrose’s claims that the mother brainwashed them into running, the teens, on their own initiative – for they are not little children – but nearly adults – sought refuge at the home of their mother’s cousin in Rockland County.
This cousin, who has known the teens since their infancy, was reacquainted with them after a gap of three years.
Upon their arrival, the cousin promptly notified both Ambrose and the local police about the teens’ location. In response, Ambrose conveyed his intent to secure a court order to forcibly bring the teens back to his residence.
As things stand, the teens remain with their cousin, surrounded by uncertainty – from hour to hour – about their future.
At any moment, Ambrose might come with police, and rather than let them stay in a safe haven, force them to decide whether they will be taken into juvenile custody or return to live with Ambrose.
Matthew and Mia, having attained the age of consent in CT, find themselves in a peculiar bind where their preferences regarding residence remain unheard. Ambrose, asserting his position as the superior parent, is pursuing criminal charges against Riordan.
In a startling move based solely on Ambrose’s claims, Judge O’Neill declared Riordan had illicitly been in touch with her teens, an act deemed criminal in CT.
While the judge stopped short of ordering her immediate arrest, he starkly warned that any future contact between Riordan and her teens could land her in prison for 5 to 10 years.
In a significant twist, Dr. Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist mandated to report any suspicions of abuse, after her assessments of Mia and her mother, duly notified the CT Department of Children and Families on August 9.
“I have heard recordings of Mr. Ambrose threatening the daughter with vaginal penetration as punishment for minor misbehavior. All three children have reliably reported sexual abuse, and no one has believed them. Frankly, because the father is so threatening, he has intimidated all witnesses (he has already been threatening to me, which I had to report to local police). The 12 (now 13)-year-old recently reported anal penetration.”
In a letter dated May 29, 2023, NYC Private Investigator Manuel Gomez made alarming accusations against Mr. Ambrose, stating to the FBI and US Attorney that Ambrose had molested his children.
Adding to the concerns, all three Ambrose offspring have lodged complaints in Connecticut’s Juvenile Court, claiming their father abuse, inclusive of sexual molestation.
Judge O’Neill, just as Judge Adelman and Judge Grossman did, ignored the voices of the children, while claiming all they have done is in the best interest of the children, while they have suffered and remain on the run.
In our next story on the teens, we will hear directly from them.