CONCORD (CBS 5) — A Concord woman faces criminal charges after investigators say she hid a 15-year old girl as her family and sheriff’s deputies searched for more than two months.

When 15-year old Stephanie Cudd went missing just after Thanksgiving, her family and friends rallied to try and find her.

For 10 weeks, they set up web sites and posted updates on neighborhood blogs, such as

Eva Nichols, the mother of Cudd’s boyfriend, set up a Facebook page and pretended to comfort the family.

“Eva was there holding our hands, praying with us, helping us hang up flyers,” said Tom Cudd, Stephanie’s father.

Cudd was found on January 29th. Authorities say she had been hiding in Nichols’ house the whole time.

A statement from Jimmy Lee, spokesman of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, said Nichols helped Stephanie hide in a crawl space even while detectives searched her house.

“This type of behavior is unacceptable and criminal,” said Captain Steve Warne of the Office of the Sheriff Investigation Division in the statement. “Detectives spent numerous hours and resources searching for Cudd. This case diverted time and resources away from our other investigations.”

“I believed she was in danger,” Nichols told CBS 5. “I believed that I was protecting her at the time.”

Extended Interview With Eva Nichols

Nichols told CBS 5 that she believed Cudd had been abused by her father because he yelled at her and threatened her son after finding out they had skipped school together.

“There was no abuse,” said Tom Cudd, Stephanie’s father. “I did yell at Stuart and Stephanie [because] they cut school for a week.”

Carl Marino, a private detective with Butler & Associates hired by Tom Cudd, solved the case by befriending Nichols. Marino said Nichols admitted Stephanie was in her house, then allowed him to take a picture with her. He eventually convinced her to give herself up to police.

“It was a feeling of relief,” Marino said. “She’s safe. Her father had no idea if she was dead on the streets somewhere, or if she was being held against her will,” Marino said.

Marino said he convinced Stephanie to call her father to let him know she was safe.

“It was a beautiful moment when I was able to hand over the phone to her so they could speak for the first time in two months,” Marino said.

Marino and Stephanie’s father believed Nichols turned the girl against her own family so she could spend time with her boyfriend.

“There definitely was some manipulation involved,” Marino said. “I wouldn’t say she was kidnapped.”

“It seems crazy to me,” said Tom Cudd. “It seems absurd.”

Extended Interview With Tom Cudd

A spokesperson for Child Protective Services told CBS 5 the girl accused her father of abuse and neglect and that the agency conducted a full investigation, but the results of that investigation are not allowed to be made public.

Cudd and Marino said Stephanie was returned to her family, which is an unlikely outcome if abuse had been confirmed.

“If she was in any sort of danger whatsoever, she wouldn’t have been put back with her family,” said Marino, a former deputy sheriff in Monroe County, New York. “CPS obviously interviewed all the parties involved, did a thorough investigation and they determined that Stephanie was best back in her own house.”

Nichols told CBS 5 she regretted her behavior and explained she had a lot going on in her life, including caring for her sick mother.

“I was making decisions emotionally more than I was rationally and in the end I knew that it had to end … and I feel bad for the lies that I said to the police by not coming forward,” said Nichols.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. Angie says:

    I’ve also heard that Eva set up a link for people to donate money to help find Stephanie. If this is true and even one person donated, couldn’t the police also get her on fraud? The only evidence of abuse is from the mouth of a woman who has done nothing but lie for almost three months. Throughout all of this, she has been eager for attention. Now she is trying to gain our pitty and more attention. Her tears seemed forced and I don’t believe a word of it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is so much more to this story. The parents of Stephanie have been wronged is so many ways. I pray for the family and hope they can heal and return to some normalcy. For those who have lied and misled this family, Karma is right around the corner.

  3. Jamie Lyn Guzman says:

    As a parent, if your kid cuts school for a week, yeah you can yell at them. Its part of the teen years to be at odds with your parents. Eva Nichols is a sick woman.

  4. parentofateen says:

    Go team Dad, I don’t know why this new generation of kids think they can not be disciplined by there parents, they get a certain age and smell them selves and think they are grown, stay a child because you can never get those years back, the Dad was right for chestizing her for skipping school, but the boyfriend’s mom yea says alot about her parenting skills tho’ go figure, but let’s not let our kids slip away. be a role model

  5. JaneQPublic says:

    IF Eva Nichols SON (Stepahie’s boyfriend) had sex with this girl while she was ‘hidden’ in the Nichols home, he has committed statutory RAPE and Eva Nichols can be charged with CONTRIBUTING to the DELINQUENCY of a MINOR (among other charges she faces.)

    1. RealityCheck says:

      HAHAHAHA – We cannot get the DA to file real charges against real criminals. This idiot woman sure won’t get charged with anything serious. She’ll take a plea deal and be done with it. Obviously this ‘missing girl’ is a tramp and she will end up pregnant before she’s 18. She will continue to be a parasite and will no doubt be on welfare or assistance. Write her off and be done with.

      1. D. Owens says:

        sounds like RealityCheck needs a reality check.

        Don’t be an idiot. Now before you reply to this and prove me right, just think about it a minute…new concept I’m sure, but try

  6. Sharri Moore says:

    How DARE this woman think she had any business keeping this girl from her parents? Who does she think she is ? She should be charged and prosecuted. Absolutely outrageous. Get a life and maybe you can resist the urge to insinuate yourself into other people’s.

  7. EViL_BBQ_Steve says:

    karma does not exist or things like this would never happen.

  8. Nadnerbus says:

    Private investigator that takes a little time, finds out the truth, and convinces the lady to give herself up?

    They did it all wrong. The Police are supposed to give an ultimatum, have a standoff at the house with dozens of officers surrounding it, followed by the SWAT team storming the house in full body armor and submachine guns while shooting their dogs.

  9. t.bemis says:

    Too bad Butler did not do the case himself. He would not be in custody for selling drugs.

  10. D. Owens says:

    Eva Nichols. Victim my ass!!! When asked for specifics about her own abuse, she clammed up. Not I’ll bet, because it was too painful, rather that she couldn’t think of anything to say in response. It amazes me this woman has the intelligence to remember to breath. She was what, suddenly overcome with an overwhelming sense of stupidity? Come on.

    I married into this family a couple of years ago, and I have seen no signs/evidence of abuse, or neglect. Of course Stephanie is a self centered teenager (what teenager isn’t? They have to be taught not to be) who threw a tantrum when her father had the gall to say no to something that was too ridiculous to even ask. Guess what Ms. Nichols it’s called being a parent. You should try it sometime if you’re able to keep your own children after all is said and done.

    What this woman has done is cause irrepairable damage to a 15 yr old girl and her family, stolen innocense, and driven a wedge between a father and daughter. Yes you should be very proud.

  11. This lady that held Stephanie for the last 2 months is 5 cans short of a six pack… It takes a lunatic to hide a child from their parents and befriend them acting as if they are there to help locate thier child. Our small mtz community were praying for a safe return of Stephanie unsure if she would be found alive I feel for the Cudd family and I hope this woman gets a significant amount of jail time and loses her own children she as a mother should be ashamed of herself how would she feel if one of her own went missing like that… oh yeah I forgot she has no feelings because she has no heart thats obvious because she kept Stephanie from her distraught family and didnt even think twice. And as far as trying to use her mothers illness as an excuse for her actions makes her an even sicker individual in my book.

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