WHAT HAPPENS WHEN "PRINCE CHARMING" KIDNAPS A MOTHER'S BABY?
A STORY OF LOVE, BETRAYAL AND MAYBE MURDER --
"48 HOURS MYSTERY," FEB. 25
In 1994, 25-year-old Toni Dykstra of Los Angeles thought she had met Prince Charming in Carlo Ventre, a successful 46-year-old Italian who treated Toni and her young daughters as though they were his family. But, after Toni gave birth to their child, Santina, the relationship soured. Despite a court custody order, Carlo fled to Italy with Santina in January 1998. Even though Carlo had threatened her life, Toni went to Italy to get her baby. An Italian court ordered the baby returned to the U.S., but the day before she was to return home, Toni ended up dead in Carlo's apartment. Carlo claims he acted in self-defense when Toni attacked him, but did he kill her to keep his daughter? Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports on a story of love, betrayal and possibly murder for 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "What They Did for Love" to be broadcast Saturday, Feb. 25 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
What began as a promising relationship between Toni and Carlo turned into an international incident with Toni's mysterious death. Her family believes Carlo murdered Toni, but Carlo insists it was a tragic accident.
Toni's family claims that after she gave birth to Santina, Carlo would not let them speak to Toni and that he became obsessed with the baby. Carlo claims that Toni became abusive towards him and he even filed police reports against her. The two split when Carlo locked Toni and her daughters out of the house and kept Santina. That's when the custody battle began and Carlo illegally took Santina to Italy.
Toni followed and won a victory in the Italian courts permitting her to take Santina back to the U.S. But the day before she was supposed to bring Santina home, for reasons still unclear, she went to Carlo's apartment. Carlo claims he and Toni had rekindled their relationship and were planning to return together. But that day, they got into an argument and, he says, Toni came at him with an ax. Carlo says that while defending himself, he pushed Toni to the floor, where she hit her head and never regained consciousness. Carlo's first call was to his lawyer and the police claim he never called for medical help. Italian police took Carlo into custody, but a court decided there wasn't enough evidence to charge him.
Toni's family and lawyer were in shock at the news of her death and believed Carlo murdered her in order to keep the baby.
Toni's twin, Teri Martinez, was determined to get justice for her sister and enlisted the help of Toni's hero, high-powered attorney Gloria Allred, who took on the case pro bono. Allred has gone to Italy six times since 1998 seeking justice for Toni and custody of Santina for the Dykstras. Allred and Toni's family want to convince Italian authorities in Rome to charge Carlo with Toni's murder. Will she be able to convince them that Carlo killed Toni? Will she be able to return Santina to Toni's family?
48 HOURS MYSTERY: "What They Did for Love" is produced by Katherine Davis and Abra Potkin Rabhan. The senior producer is Peter Schweitzer and the executive producer is Susan Zirinsky.