The tug-of-war between Camille Colvin and her ex-husband took about three frantic months to resolve, but not before it had become an international incident and left their son in the middle of it all to celebrate his 5th birthday in a Chinese hotel room as his parents finally worked things out.
The saga (see "The Lost Boy," New York, August 26) began after an ugly custody battle when, despite the presence of a private investigator, Colvin's ex-husband, Guo Rui, a Chinese artist, vanished with their son, Griffin, from an Upper East Side street during a visit on July 8. Guo Rui claimed it was Colvin who first kidnapped Griffin when she left him in 2000, though Colvin was later awarded custody after their divorce. For six weeks, she combed the streets of Chinatown looking for her son, only to find out through private investigators that Guo Rui and Griffin had long since fled to Vancouver and taken a July 10 flight to China.
On September 8, Colvin and her brother flew to China. There, she spoke with numerous underground "operatives" about getting the boy back -- for a steep price and with no guarantee of success. She traveled to Zhengzhou, the remote city where her ex lives with his family, spotted Griffin asleep on a park bench, and whisked him away. Within minutes, Guo Rui, also in the park, had called the police.
The Chinese authorities sent all of them to a hotel suite, insisting they work it out. For nine days, Camille and Guo Rui negotiated in a tiny living room between their rooms. The Today show did a brief interview with Camille through a slit in the hotel door -- and what started as a custody fight soon snowballed into a story of global intrigue.
Money, of course, complicated matters. Colvin claimed Guo Rui was willing to give Griffin up for $60,000, a charge that incensed Chinese-Americans. In Zhengzhou, the figure rose to $130,000, her family says, calling it "ransom." Guo Rui insisted he was only seeking return of money Camille took when she left China with Griffin.
Last Thursday, Camille and Griffin checked out of the hotel, hopped into a car manned by security guards, and headed home. Family sources say $60,000 -- raised by the family through the "Griffin fund" and wired from the States -- was turned over to Guo Rui. Griffin's father, approached by the Associated Press as he sat in the lobby of the hotel while his son and ex-wife fled once more, was reportedly morose. "I really love this child," he said.