AUGUSTA — A mother convicted of illegally taking two of her children from their guardian in Maine and reaching South Carolina before they were located by police, was sentenced Friday to two and a half years in jail, with all but five months suspended and two years’ probation.

A jury on Wednesday found BethMarie Retamozzo, 36, of Fairfield, guilty of two charges of criminal restraint by a parent for taking Joslyn, now 9, and Joel Retamozzo, now 7, from their legal guardian, Retamozzo’s mother, Pamela Taylor of Waterville.

The offenses occurred Aug. 15, 2013.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Friday that her office was immediately concerned when Waterville police called to say the children were missing.

“We were terrified for what was going to happen to those children,” Maloney said.

She said the probate court had previously determined that Retamozzo was a danger to her children and the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Frayla Schoenfeld, said Retamozzo had written in a diary years ago about thoughts of killing herself and her children.

Taylor, of Waterville, had been raising the children for most of their lives after Retamozzo gave her guardianship with the intent of going into the military. A probate court judge in June 2013 continued that guardianship, but permitted Retamozzo to visit with the children if the visits were supervised by people approved by the court. That ruling was confirmed in a written order about a week before the children were reported missing by Taylor.

Taylor testified at the trial that Retamozzo and Jennifer Dore, an authorized supervisor, picked up the two children from Taylor’s apartment the afternoon of Aug. 15. Taylor said she thought they were going to the Skowhegan State Fair and Dore testified she thought she was supervising a visit at the North Street Playground.

However, Dore drove away as Retamozzo was transferring the children to car seats in her own car.

Dore said she went to the playground, but did not see Retamozzo’s vehicle. Taylor testified she contacted police when the children were not returned by that evening.

They were located on Aug. 18, 2013, at a rest stop in South Carolina.

At the trial, Retamozzo’s attorney, John O’Donnell, told jurors that she was heading to Florida to visit a sister who had married recently.

At the sentencing hearing Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court, Justice Andrew Horton said the jail time was to ensure that Retamozzo “understands how seriously this court takes this type of criminal act.”

He said he took into consideration the facts that Retamozzo has no prior criminal record and that the children were unharmed when a South Carolina Highway Patrol officer located Retamozzo’s vehicle at a rest stop in Carroll County.

Horton prohibited Retamozzo from contact with Joel and Josyln unless it is permitted by another court.

Schoenfeld recommended a sentence of three years in prison with all but one year suspended and two years’ probation. Retamozzo’s attorney said a sentence of a month behind bars would be appropriate.

Retamozzo, who did not testify in her own defense at the trial, told the judge on Friday, “I have nothing to say, your honor.”

In arguing for a longer period behind bars, Schoenfeld told the judge that Retamozzo had not been in regular contact with Joel and Joslyn.

“The only home that these children had known was Ms. Taylor’s household, which elevates the impact on those children,” Schoenfeld said.

Schoenfeld said Retamozzo has six other children, all in the custody of others, and previously was charged in Massachusetts with sexual assault against a child, but not convicted.

On Friday, Retamozzo was ordered to report to the Kennebec County jail next Friday.

Through O’Donnell, she had requested a stay until mid-May, when her college semester would be completed.

After the hearing, O’Donnell said he and Retamozzo would meet next week to discuss an appeal. Retamozzo declined to make any comment except to say she was considering an appeal.

Schoenfeld also said Retamozzo was driving her children to a location where Retamozzo’s younger daughter, Destiny, who was in Retamozzo’s van when the children were recovered, was later injured, allegedly by Retamozzo’s bother-in-law. Charges against Stanley Wykretowicz of Palm Coast, Fla., are pending in connection with that February 2014 incident.

Schoenfeld also said Retamozzo’s sister Cherrie Retamozzo and Wykretowicz were arrested Tuesday in Palm Coast on charges of child abuse, specifically that a 14-year-old in their custody was beaten.

O’Donnell asked the judge to consider only the factors present at the time Retamozzo was charged with criminal restraint by a parent, and not the other incidents enumerated by the prosecutor.

O’Donnell said Retamozzo currently has no income, is sleeping on friends’ couches and is a full time college student.

“She clearly loved her kids, and I have no doubt it was some feelings of upset on her part that she couldn’t have her kids with her full-time,” O’Donnell said.

The sentencing hearing was watched by the news media and Waterville Police Detective David Caron, one of the investigators in the case.

Schoenfeld said the victims were told about hearing, but chose not to attend.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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