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Competing narratives emerge in trial of woman accused in plot to 'kidnap' son from foster family

Cynthia Abcug, 53, faces a felony charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping and child abuse-knowingly or recklessly causing injury.

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Two competing narratives emerged Monday afternoon at the trial of a woman accused of planning a raid to kidnap her son from a foster family in 2019 – a plot allegedly involving followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

On one side was the prosecution, asserting that Cynthia Abcug was guilty of “medical child abuse” by subjecting her otherwise healthy son to years of extensive tests and procedures, then “spiraling down” after he was removed from her care by social workers. After that, she started plotting to kidnap the boy, according to court documents.

On the other was the defense, which told jurors that the boy, now 10 years old, had a documented history of complex medical problems – including seizures witnessed by doctors – and that many of his symptoms were consistent with side effects of a medication prescribed by physicians.

At the center of the case is Abcug, 53, who faces a felony charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping and child abuse-knowingly or recklessly causing injury.

Child protective services removed Abcug’s son, then 7, from her custody in May 2019. Over the ensuing months, an effort was made to remove her then-16-year-old daughter from her home, and during that process the girl told authorities about the alleged plot to kidnap the boy.

According to court documents, Abcug plotted with a man identified only as “Ryan” to carry out the kidnapping – but to date she is the only person who has been charged with a crime.

A jury of seven men and six women – one of them is an alternate – was seated late Monday afternoon, then heard opening statements from both sides.

In his opening statement Monday afternoon, Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Dawson told jurors that Abcug told numerous people that her son had serious medical issues – including heart issues and seizures – and that he was going to die. But according to Dawson, the principal and a nurse at the boy’s school observed none of those problems.

In addition, Dawson told jurors, numerous medical tests, including a brain scan and a spinal tap, all came back “normal.”

“This is a normal kid,” Dawson said. “This is not a sick kid – this is a normal kid.”

Along the way, one of the boy’s doctors referred the case to child protective services, and a judge eventually ordered his removal from her home.

He’s been in a foster home for more than three years and is not having any of those problems.

“He goes fishing,” Dawson said. “He plays sports. He goes skiing. He enjoys school. He is thriving.”

He also told the jurors that Abcug’s daughter will take the stand and describe her mother as having spiraled “off the deep end” after the boy was removed from the home and began hanging out with people in conspiracy groups, including QAnon.

QAnon is a group that has spread the claim that a deep state carried out a plot against then-President Donald Trump and his supporters. 

After Abcug’s son was taken, Dawson said, a man identified as a former military sniper moved into her home, and Abcug obtained a gun and talked repeatedly of kidnapping her son.

But defense attorney Bryan Hall painted a very different picture.

“This case is a case about a single mom who is raising a child with a history of serious, complex medical issues, a mom that has to make a decision after decision about her son,” Hall said during his opening statement. “Days turn into years as she does not have an answer as to what is going on with her son.”

He detailed a series of medical issues beginning shortly after the boy was born – a seizure when he was a few months old as he was being held by a doctor, the first of multiple seizures that were documented by family members and physicians. Multiple brain scans came back “abnormal,” Hall said, and showed evidence of epileptic activity.

At one point, his doctor prescribed a drug that affects the nerve cells of the brain but has numerous potential side effects, many of them lining up with the problems the boy experienced, Hall told the jurors.

“These side effects are what medical professionals in Florida, medical professionals in Colorado, see occurring,” Hall said.

The improvement in his health that occurred after he was taken from Abcug’s custody coincided with a decision to wean him off that drug, Hall said.

“This case is about a concerned mother who spent years trying to find an answer for her son, not getting an answer,” Hall said. “This is not a case of medical child abuse. This is not a case of a mother conspiring to kidnap her son.”

Testimony is scheduled to start Tuesday morning and is expected to continue into Thursday.

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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