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Fear or guilt? What drove Allains?

After 77 days on the lam, the Hernando couple are scheduled to appear in a New Jersey court today.


Lori Allain thinks she knows why she is in a New Jersey jail.

It has little to do with the child abuse charges against her.

"Maybe, truthfully, you could say I asked for some of this with my smart-a-- attitude," she said in one of several phone calls with the St. Petersburg Times in the two weeks leading up to her arrest Wednesday night. "It stems from me, and I know that, because I'm a bigmouth. I say what I feel. I don't hold anything back."

Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 47, are the Hernando County couple who were charged in June 2004 with child abuse and neglect after allegedly starving their 10-year-old foster daughter. The girl weighed 29 pounds when authorities took her. The Allains failed to show for the start of their trial on Oct. 25, and Circuit Judge Jack Springstead issued an arrest warrant.

That warrant was served Wednesday in Toms River, N.J., when five detectives from two agencies knocked on a door at the local Quality Inn.

After 77 days on the lam, the Allains were taken to the Ocean County jail. A first appearance before a judge is scheduled for this afternoon. The next steps in the extradition process will be determined then.

The couple's four biological sons, ranging in age from 12 to 17, were also in the hotel room, authorities said. They were referred initially to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services and are now with Lori Allain's sister, who lives in Jackson, N.J., about an hour south.

On Thursday, back in Hernando, the Allains were the hot topic.

"You can run," sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black said. "But you can't hide."

The Allains, even in their absence, have maintained their innocence.

"If I was innocent," Sheriff Richard Nugent said in mid-November, "I would want to come back and face the charges and make the state prove it. But guilty people run."

"No," Tommy Allain told the Times. "Scared people run. They run for their lives."

In their recent talks with the Times, the Allains have spoken with confidence and conviction about why they ran when they did, and have suggested they are targets of a vast Hernando conspiracy involving the sheriff, the courts, the State Attorney's Office and the state Department of Children and Families.

Never did they say where they were.

"You've got to understand," Lori Allain said last Tuesday. "The biker world is a very, very big organization, and they're all over the U.S. and the world. When they know you're right ... you're not going to find us."

On Wednesday, she talked to Neil Sullivan, Hernando's lead detective on the case, and told him they were only four hours away.

But authorities had focused on New Jersey from the get-go.

Lori Allain grew up there and still has family there. Within the last week, detectives from Hernando zeroed in on Ocean County in particular, authorities said, and all local police departments were put on alert.

On Sunday, an officer noticed the Allains' broken-down, four-door maroon Saturn sedan parked in front of the Lafontana Motel in Seaside Heights.

The Allains had stayed there Dec. 22, 23 and 24, the general manager told the Times on Thursday. Room 103 had two double beds, a minifridge and a color TV. They checked out on Christmas Day.

"They said goodbye," said Sandra Tzakos, the manager. "They said happy holidays."

The Allains checked in to the Quality Inn last Friday, said Capt. Robert Urie of the Ocean County Office of the Prosecutor.

On Wednesday evening, Kristen Staab, 23, the younger of the Allains' two daughters who live in Spring Hill, was on the phone with her mother.

It was 6:45.

"They weren't expecting us to come through the door, obviously, but there was no resistance whatsoever," Urie said.

Lori Allain asked the detectives if she could change clothes, Staab said, and they said sure. A detective got on the phone and talked briefly with Staab. He soon called her back to let her know her brothers were okay.

It all took 15 minutes.

In Hernando, on Wednesday night at 11:55, police scanner chatter sent out a notice calling off the search for the Allains because they were in custody in New Jersey.

Their extradition will be handled by State Extraditions Inc., based in Orlando, said Black, the sheriff's spokeswoman.

"As soon as they return to Hernando County," said Assistant State Attorney Sherry Byerly, the lead prosecutor on the case, "they will be on the trial docket."

At 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Lori and Tommy Allain were still being booked, jail officials said.

On the Hernando sheriff's Web site, big block letters said: CAPTURED IN NEW JERSEY. TV news crews started showing up at the daughter's house not far from the Suncoast Parkway.

Kristen Staab was long gone.

"Fighting extradition?" she said by cell phone from somewhere in North Carolina on her way up to New Jersey. "I don't know what they're going to do. They may just say let's get it over with and leave it in God's hands and hope everything goes well.

"Crazy, crazy, crazy," she added. "One of them days."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

2006 Jan 13