October 12, 2007 - An Alabama woman who frighteningly disappeared from a religious conference this summer only to be found months later in New York is now heading to divorce court to officially split with her pastor husband.
Mary "Beth" Byrne Smith, the woman who caused quite a stir last spring when she went missing from a Christian women's conference in Louisiana, pawned her wedding ring and was later found working in New York, has agreed to her husband's request for a divorce.
In his divorce petition, the Reverend Jason Lee Smith is seeking custody of the couple's two children, a request that his soon-to-be ex-wife is less than amicable about.
While agreeing to the divorce, Mary "Beth" Byrne Smith is seeking different terms. She is claiming that her husband has been verbally abusing her and is now using the couple's two children, ages 10 and 7, as leverage against her.
The runaway wife's divorce attorney, D. Robert Stankoski, said in the counterclaim that his client is "a fit and proper parent."
Mary Beth "Byrne" Smith disappeared from a woman's religious seminar in Bossier City, Louisiana this past March. After telling a friend that she was going to use the restroom, Smith did not return. Her disappearance initially caused much concern about her whereabouts and safety.
However, in July, police investigators tracked down a $169 bus ticket that she bought. Police were further aided by the Alabama Department of Education, which notified them that Smith had applied for a copy of her teaching certificate.
The former kindergarten teacher later returned to Baldwin County, Alabama after being located by authorities. The 30-year-old mother of two had been working at a "fast-food" restaurant in New York and would later say that she was under a lot of "emotional distress" and "had no other choice" when she fled from the conference.
Since her return to Alabama, Mary Byrne Smith has been separated from her husband, who has been caring for the children in a house being paid for by the church. Mary Byrne Smith has been living with a friend but talking to or seeing her children nearly every day.
While the couple had appeared to be happy prior to the disappearance, Stankoski said that was not the case. The Alabama divorce attorney elaborated that his client had to put on a happy face because of her husband's profession even though things weren't well.
Jason Lee Smith's divorce attorney, Don Bolton, said that the couple detests being around each other, has very few common interests any more, and is no longer in love.
With all this considered, here's hoping that this divorce can remain civil, especially considering what the couple's children have had to endure in the last couple of months.