Injustice Echoes: 'She Doesn't Have a Voice'—They Took Her Daughter on Unfounded Claims. Then They Kept Her.

Injustice Echoes: 'She Doesn't Have a Voice'—They Took Her Daughter on Unfounded Claims. Then They Kept Her.

Unraveling Injustice: A Mother's Resilience Amidst Federal Intrigue

Editor's TCPalm Opinion editor and columnist Laurence Reisman has followed this case since the spring of 2022, facing numerous roadblocks for public records and interviews in the process. This is the first in a series of columns.

Never give up. It’s a theme woven into the fabric of the lives of Thailand natives Supee Spindler, 71, and her mentally disabled daughter, Nisarat Jittasonthi, 49. While not an uncommon theme, relatively few people find themselves entangled in the disturbing chain of events involving federal agents that unraveled the lives of a successful owner of a therapeutic massage business in Vero Beach, Florida, and her daughter in early 2021.

After many years apart, during which Jittasonthi lived with her aunt in Asia, Spindler reunited with her daughter in the United States in 2014. Alongside them was Spindler’s other daughter, Supaporn “Poi” Naknukool, 41. Naknukool, with a doctorate degree in biochemistry, had worked at food science companies in Fellsmere and Deerfield Beach before returning to Thailand to raise her own family in late 2019. This marked a turning point as Spindler and Jittasonthi moved into a new, $400,000 home west of Vero Beach.

Spindler, who came to the United States in 2006 with her husband, Christian missionary Bob Spindler, was living the American dream. A teacher and licensed masseuse in Thailand, she attended college in Port St. Lucie to obtain her Florida license before starting her own business in 2009. Working as a U.S. citizen, she aimed to help Jittasonthi acclimate to the United States by involving her in various business tasks, such as putting linens on massage tables. Spindler also sought to provide her daughter with English lessons and enrolled her in adult education programs, despite the challenges. Jittasonthi, with five disabilities as noted by Thai officials in 2015, struggled to learn English, communicating in Thai like a 3- to 6-year-old, according to a U.S. doctor. Finding places for her daughter to socialize proved challenging, prompting Spindler to bring dolls, posters, and flashcards into their home. Slowly, Jittasonthi learned to write her name in English.

Their American dream turned into a nightmare in 2021 when federal agents took Jittasonthi without filing any charges, leaving Spindler in the dark. The court stymied her efforts to reunite with her daughter, adding a layer of mystery to an already bewildering situation.

Unraveling Shadows: The Disturbing Case of Supee Spindler and Nisarat Jittasonthi

In a sudden turn of events, the tranquility of Vero Beach was disrupted when, on February 19, a woman with limited English proficiency walked into the police lobby, expressing concerns about Supee Spindler, the owner of Thai House of Therapeutic Massage. Allegations of potential exploitation and harm toward an "intellectually disabled" employee, identified as Nisarat Jittasonthi, surfaced, supported by handwritten letters in Thai provided by the concerned woman.

Three days later, the plot thickened as the Thai Community Development Center in Los Angeles received similar notes from Jittasonthi, detailing verbal and physical abuse by Spindler, including claims that she held Jittasonthi's passport and ID—a potential sign of human trafficking, as suggested by the community development center officials on February 24.

Remarkably, the initial police reports failed to establish the familial connection between Spindler and Jittasonthi, leaving out the critical detail that Spindler was Jittasonthi’s mother and primary caretaker. Vero Beach police promptly involved Homeland Security Investigations, escalating the case to a federal level.

On February 25, law enforcement officials descended upon Spindler's business, where they found Jittasonthi visibly distressed. Separated from her mother, Jittasonthi was placed on a call with an official from the Thai Center in Los Angeles before being taken to housing arranged by Catholic Charities in West Palm Beach. Astonishingly, more than a year later, Spindler remained in the dark about her daughter's whereabouts.

My investigation into this perplexing case began in March 2022, prompted by an email from one of Spindler's clients. The details painted a narrative seemingly too extreme to unfold within the borders of this nation. In the subsequent month, Spindler, taken aback by a complaint from a Thai woman she had employed, cooperated with authorities, allowing searches of her home and business.

The complexity of this situation deepened as Spindler enlisted the help of three Vero Beach attorneys—Andrew Metcalf, Julia Graves, and Jimmy Benincasa—in a determined effort to cooperate with authorities and reunite with her daughter, shedding light on a tale that challenges comprehension and raises profound questions about justice and family bonds.

The Legal Battle: Unraveling Allegations and Seeking Justice for Nisarat Jittasonthi

Andrew Metcalf, a seasoned criminal defense attorney, stepped into the fray, representing Supee Spindler during the intense investigations by the Florida Department of Children and Families and Homeland Security. Metcalf staunchly asserted that the slew of allegations against Spindler held no semblance of truth, emphasizing her unwavering cooperation. Despite investigators initially believing they had a case, no charges were ever filed, leaving Spindler in a relentless pursuit to reclaim her daughter.

In April 2021, a glimmer of connection emerged when Spindler received calls from a purported case worker at Catholic Charities in West Palm Beach. These conversations allowed Spindler a rare opportunity to speak with her daughter, Nisarat Jittasonthi, who described a confined existence—a room equipped with only a TV, washer, dryer, limited outfits, and a thin blanket. Authorities asserted that Jittasonthi would remain in this state for six months. Disregarding the impending disability benefits, Spindler voiced her concern for her daughter's quality of life with family, expressing her willingness to cover all expenses.

Through a Catholic Charities facility in Vero Beach, Spindler managed to send personal items and cash to Jittasonthi's case worker, ensuring her daughter received necessities like food, a dollhouse, and CBD oil to alleviate seizures. Additional funds facilitated outings to a Thai restaurant and a hair salon. However, suspicions arose when Jittasonthi, in June, declared her decision to reside with the charity, citing prospects of finding a job and making "easy money." Spindler questioned the influence behind these decisions.

By early August 2021, the case worker abruptly severed contact with Spindler. In response, attorney Julia Graves initiated legal action, filing a lawsuit aimed at compelling the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Catholic Charities to return Jittasonthi. Graves contended that the agencies unlawfully detained Jittasonthi, depriving her of freedom for reasons deemed invalid and illegal. DCF countered, disavowing custody and asserting that abuse claims were unsubstantiated. Catholic Charities, however, acknowledged housing Jittasonthi, stating she willingly chose to remain under their care, marking a pivotal point in a complex legal battle for justice and familial rights.

Silenced Suffering: Supee Spindler's Quest for Justice and the Elusive Trail of Nisarat Jittasonthi

In a legal labyrinth, Circuit Judge Janet Croom dismissed Supee Spindler's case in December 2021, citing lack of jurisdiction as Nisarat Jittasonthi was in Palm Beach County. Undeterred, attorney Julia Graves attempted to file a similar case in Palm Beach, only to discover that Jittasonthi had vanished once again. Graves aptly likened the situation to a shell game, criticizing authorities for moving Spindler's daughter without disclosing her whereabouts.

Before Jittasonthi's abrupt separation, Jimmy Benincasa had endeavored to aid Spindler in reuniting her daughter with family in Thailand, emphasizing the importance of social services and time with her siblings. However, by mid-2022, Spindler found herself financially drained, having expended tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees, private investigators, and associated expenses. Despite reaching out to state and federal representatives, her pleas for assistance remained unanswered.

Amidst this turmoil, testimonials from several thousand customers painted a stark contrast to the allegations. Steve Schwartz, one such customer, described Spindler as a "sweet lady" and an excellent massage therapist, perplexed by the incongruity of the accusations. He emphasized that Jittasonthi, fondly known as "Nungning," appeared content and well-loved while working alongside her mother, displaying no signs of abuse.

Criminal defense attorney Andrew Metcalf expressed dismay at the federal government's reticence, highlighting their refusal to provide handwritten notes reportedly penned by Jittasonthi. The government's opacity, he noted, was shielded by the absence of a federal lawsuit, leaving Spindler's voice unheard and her daughter seemingly vanished into thin air.

Following the publication of a column in 2022, Vero Beach attorney Gary Rooney entered the fray, offering a glimmer of hope in the pursuit of justice. The stage is set for the Rooney law firm to unveil a strategy aimed at unraveling the mystery and locating Supee Spindler's daughter, Nisarat Jittasonthi. The journey continues, echoing the desperate plea: someone needs to help her.

The Echoing Cry for Justice in Supee Spindler's Ordeal

As the haunting saga of Supee Spindler's relentless pursuit of her daughter, Nisarat Jittasonthi, unfolds, the narrative is marked by legal complexities, jurisdictional challenges, and an unsettling lack of transparency from federal authorities. Circuit Judge Janet Croom's dismissal due to jurisdictional constraints and the subsequent elusive movements of Jittasonthi have left Spindler in an anguishing state of uncertainty.

In the face of allegations that have not stood the test of truth, Spindler's financial resources have been depleted, with legal fees, private investigators, and other expenses draining her savings. The testimonials from numerous customers paint a contrasting picture, depicting a caring mother and an apparently content and well-loved daughter, raising questions about the veracity of the accusations.

Attorney Andrew Metcalf's frustration with the federal government's refusal to share crucial handwritten notes adds another layer of opacity to the already convoluted situation. The absence of answers underscores the poignant truth: Spindler, in her quest for justice, has been left voiceless, and Jittasonthi seemingly lost in a bureaucratic abyss.

In this disheartening state of affairs, the entry of Vero Beach attorney Gary Rooney offers a glimmer of hope. The Rooney law firm's upcoming strategy aims to unravel the mystery surrounding Jittasonthi's whereabouts, rekindling the possibility of a reunion for this mother and daughter torn apart by an inexplicable chain of events.

As this compelling narrative continues, the fervent plea resonates: someone, somewhere, must step forward to help Supee Spindler reclaim her voice and uncover the truth surrounding the disappearance of Nisarat Jittasonthi. The pursuit of justice, though fraught with challenges, remains an unwavering beacon in the face of adversity.

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