An effort to reunite a family failed this weekend because of a misunderstanding among Brazilian officials, but work will resume to bring three children together with their mother in Omaha.
“I think it's something that can be resolved,” said Rod James, the Douglas County Attorney's Office criminal investigator who has headed the project. “We're moving forward with this, so we're going to make it happen.”
The mother, Wanderlucia Oliveira de Paiva, gave testimony two years ago in a Douglas County courtroom that helped prompt her boyfriend's confession to the murders in Omaha of a Brazilian missionary, his wife and their son.
A second man was convicted as well. A warrant remains active for the arrest of a third, who is believed to be in Brazil.
Oliveira de Paiva, who was brought to Omaha 2½ years ago to assist the prosecution, left her children behind.
They have been separated ever since.
The County Attorney's Office and Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska have worked together to reunite the mother and her children.
The reunion was to have taken place Saturday at Eppley Airfield.
James said that a cousin escorted the three children on two flights through Brazil to reach São Paulo on Friday.
The cousin handed off the children to a family friend, who was to escort them on the flight to the United States and into Omaha. That was the plan, James said, and it should have worked.
James said he had representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil and the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago review the judge's order. Brazilian law enforcement officials also examined it, he said.
“We had all of our I's dotted, T's crossed,” James said Saturday. “Everybody did everything that they were supposed to do.”
But federal police in São Paulo had a different interpretation of the Brazilian judge's order, James said, and wouldn't allow the handoff to take place. So the children were stuck Friday evening in São Paulo. They returned to their home Saturday, James said.
James said he will create a plan in which the cousin escorts the children all the way. And he will have to raise a few thousand dollars — again — to get them to Omaha.
Oliveira de Paiva was threatened by relatives of the defendants in an attempt to dissuade her from coming to the United States to testify.
Another Brazilian woman also came to Omaha to testify but was able to bring her children with her.
James said Oliveira de Paiva deserves to be reunited in the U.S. with her children.
“What both mothers did was courageous,” James said. “We would not have gotten as far as we did without these women. There's been justice.”