MANASSAS PARK, Va. — A Manassas Park family has gone from love, surprise and joy to sadness and despair.
Laura and Calvin O'Dell fear they’ll never be able to bring their little girl home.
The O’Dell's found out last year that their two adopted sons had a sister in Africa.
But their efforts to adopt her fell apart after Elizabeth’s childhood prank -- and a chance encounter with a relative of the Ugandan President.
The O’Dell’s have a pink bedroom all ready for the 12-year-old.
"Everything is blank in here so that when she came home, we could go shopping together," Laura O'Dell said.
Five years ago, they adopted Tim, 10, and Twana, 9. Last year, they took the boys back to Uganda for a visit. As they were leaving the orphanage, they received a huge surprise -- the boys had a sister.
"It was unbelievable that she existed, because we had no idea. And she looked exactly like the boys," Laura O'Dell said.
The boys were overjoyed.
"It felt amazing," Tim said.
The O’Dell’s immediately decided to adopt the rambunctious Elizabeth, too.
"Sometimes she got a little carried away," Tim said, laughing.
On April 11, as Laura O’Dell was finalizing the adoption, Elizabeth played a game with her -- running ahead into the dark night on the way back to the hotel.
"I reached her. I grabbed her by the hand, and I was like, ‘What are you doing? This is not safe!'" Laura O'Dell, said.
A twist of fate: the sister-in-law of the Ugandan President witnessed O’Dell grabbing the girl. Suspecting kidnapping, Joviah Saleh called the cops.
"I sat in the jail and cried all day," Laura O'Dell, said.
"I cried just a little bit," Tim said. "I shed some tears."
There was a whirlwind of detention, lawyers, and demands for money. Laura O'Dell said the U.S. Embassy wasn't any help.
"I’ve been let down by every government entity that could have helped me in this country," she said.
She eventually fled Uganda -- without Elizabeth.
Laura O'Dell said making her family whole is the right thing to do. She doesn't want her boys to grow up without their sister.
A document from Ugandan police confirms O’Dell’s story. The Ugandan Embassy and the State Department didn't respond to WUSA9.
Three months later, Elizabeth’s bedroom is still empty, and hope is running out.
"I love that little girl and I want nothing more than for her to be raised with her brothers and our family," Laura O'Dell said.
She said her adoption agency dropped her after her detention, and no one has returned their emails.
The O’Dells said Elizabeth is staying now with the Ugandan President’s sister-in-law.
The O'Dells are still fighting to bring her home, but sometimes they think it’s impossible.