The Meanest Divorce

He kidnapped their kids. She bankrupted his family. He hid out for seven years. She had him put in jail. A story of love turned to hate.

TELL ME SOMETHING,” CHUCK SMITH asks, fixing me with a Rasputin-like stare. “Would you let your kids suffer? Would you break the law to keep them safe?” His voice, usually as fervent as an evangelist’s, drops to a half-whisper. “Would you sacrifice everything for your own kids?”

I have come to Cuernavaca, Mexico, fifty miles southwest of Mexico City, to meet Houston’s most infamous father. In 1984, while divorcing his wife, Carolyn, Chuck Smith, then 26 years old, the scion of one of Houston’s wealthiest and most politically influential automobile dealers, kidnapped his own two sons—Charles, age 6, and Christopher, only 4—and vanished for more than seven years. Chuck testified that the boys tearfully begged him to take them away from their mother, who had become so addicted to prescription drugs that she slept through the day, forgetting to feed them, shaking them when they woke her. On occasion, Chuck said, she refused to allow them out of their room, forcing them to urinate in the closet. Fearing that the divorce courts would still not give him full custody, Chuck decided there was only one thing to do. “What self-respecting father,” he asks, his 250-pound body looming over me as he paces

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