DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo — On the witness stand Thursday morning, Cynthia Abcug described a series of seizures and other medical issues experienced by her son and said she reached out to a group of mothers on Twitter looking for help to have her child returned to her care.
She denied plotting with members of the conspiracy group known as QAnon to kidnap her son, now 10 years old, from the foster home where he has been living since 2019.
The jury trial for Abcug, 53, started Monday in Douglas County. She faces one count of child abuse-knowingly or recklessly causing injury and conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping. She pleaded not guilty to both charges.
The case went to the jury around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The jurors went home a short time later.
Closing arguments came after Abcug spent a little more than three hours on the witness stand.
“QAnon was something I heard about in passing on the Twitter moms, and I didn’t know what it was, nor did I care, because I just wanted to get my son back,” Abcug testified.
At one point, she said, she attended a luncheon where someone gave her a bag of elastic QAnon bracelets and she took them home.
“That’s the extent of the QAnon bracelets,” she said.
In hindsight, she said she realized the people she met online were trying to scam her.
“I feel like a fool because I believed those people,” Abcug said under questioning from one of her attorneys, Ara Ohanian. “I believed them, and I’m embarrassed, and I wish I never did. And I’m sorry for that, but I did.”
She said she allowed a man from the group to move into her home – and ultimately bought a gun – after someone broke her back door.
Abcug’s testimony challenged allegations that she subjected the boy to “medical” child abuse by claiming he had medical conditions he didn’t have – including a terminal brain tumor and a serious heart issue – and subjected him to unnecessary and in some cases risky tests and treatments, including an anti-seizure medication with dangerous side effects.
It was also alleged that she plotted with members of QAnon to kidnap her son from the foster home.
Earlier testimony, from the boy’s foster mother and others, suggested he has suffered no medical issues since being removed from Abcug’s home under a court order.
“I’m happy that he’s doing well, and I think he’d be doing well if he was with me, and I feel sad for him, and honestly it’s just hard to get up sometimes and go to work,” Abcug told jurors.
Fighting through tears, she said a court order has also denied her contact with her three grown children.
“I miss my family,” she said in a shaky voice.
Abcug’s testimony was aimed directly at the allegations against her. She described seizures she said she witnessed and other medical problems experienced by her son, and she talked about a conversation with the boy’s longtime doctor in Florida, who suggested she move so the youngster could be assessed at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“I asked him if my son could die,” Abcug said of that conversation with the doctor. “He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I don’t understand why we can’t find an answer to why this is happening.’”
Abcug told jurors that she was hesitant about some medical procedures, at one point refusing to allow a spinal tap to be performed.
She also described happy moments with the boy, telling the jury about her son starting school in Colorado after the family moved here in 2017 and having a note sent home after an eye exam suggesting he needed glasses. She took him to get glasses and described what he said on the way home.
“He said, ‘Oh my God mom, there’s mountains,’ and he could see them finally for the first time, and that was special,” Abcug said.
She said she first began to fear something was wrong with her son when he was an infant. Unlike her three older children, she said, he would sleep 15 hours a night.
“I thought that was peculiar, and it told me something might be wrong,” Abcug testified.
She testified about his first seizure, when her daughter told her the boy “looked weird” and “he got very stiff and started shaking a bit, not real shaky but stiff, and then he urinated on himself.”
She said she had witnessed “maybe a handful of those” but also saw other kinds of seizures, including one when he was in a high chair eating Cheerios and he started shaking and could not be aroused.
Under sometimes tense cross-examination by Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Dawson, Abcug denied that she told multiple people that her son had seizures, suffered from a heart problem and a brain tumor, and was terminally ill.
Multiple witnesses testified that she had said those things.
She acknowledged that she had posted multiple messages on Twitter claiming that she’d gotten a judge kicked off the case involving the removal of her son from her home, claimed that he’d been taken from her illegally, and asserted that the child protective services system was “stealing children and selling them for money.”
“I was in a heightened state of anxiety,” Abcug said when asked why she did all that.
At another point, she said she would have done “anything within the legal capability to get my son back.”
Dawson noted she didn’t attend two court hearings related to the removal of her son in the fall of 2019.
“Where were you?” Dawson asked.
“I was not here,” Abcug replied.
Ultimately, she said she believed people with a group she identified as the “children’s crusade” were going to help her get her son back. She said they took her out of state to a safehouse.
“Your testimony was the children’s crusade wasn’t going to kidnap your son, they kidnapped you,” Dawson asked.
“They took me across state lines and kept me in a burnt hotel room and did not treat me nicely,” Abcug responded.
Abcug was one of two witnesses called by the defense.
In earlier testimony Thursday, an occupational therapist who worked with Abcug’s son in 2018 and early 2019 described him as “a very happy, friendly child – very eager to do whatever you ask of him if he can.”
Cheryl Moss said that when she began working with the boy, he was 5 years old but had the cognitive skills of a 2-year-old.
She described him as having good days and bad days. On good days, he could identify colors and numbers and perform various tasks. On bad days, he could not identify coins he could pick out a couple of days earlier.
“One session, he could do what I asked him to do cognitively, and one session he couldn’t,” she testified.
Asked whether she ever saw him have a seizure, she described an incident when he was on a couch, working on a puzzle and then “he stared into space with no response at all, a blank look, for about 30 to 45 seconds; and then when he stopped, he was surprised that I was there.”
The prosecution has regularly questioned whether the boy actually had the seizures Abcug described. Under cross-examination by Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Dawson, Moss acknowledged that when she was interviewed by a police detective during the investigation, she said she had never seen the boy have a seizure.
She acknowledged telling the detective that she “felt like mom would exaggerate and assume the worst” about the boy’s medical issues.
Finally, she acknowledged that Abcug once told her she thought the department of human services had moved her son to Russia or China and that she referred to the removal of the boy from her home as a “kidnapping.”
Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: email@example.com or 303-871-1862.
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