Bay Area dad reunites with kids who were allegedly abducted, held overseas

Gaya Viaan thought he might never see his kids again after his estranged wife took off with his son and daughter to Africa almost two years ago.

But after the Antioch father reached out to authorities and KTVU news last year to highlight his story, the children are now back home safe. 

The mother, meanwhile, is now back in the country after being deported from Ghana where she allegedly fled with the kids, and faces seven felonies, including two kidnapping charges. 

"I think that any father that had these kids would fight for them," Viaan told KTVU just week after reuniting with his children, ages 4 and 7. "Being told you will not see them until they turn 18, that will do something to somebody. And that is why I went as hard as I did."

The ordeal began when Viaan’s ex-wife, Ayesha Jackson, moved out of the Bay Area in 2020 with the kids. He didn’t know where they went, but soon learned she’d allegedly forged his signature on travel documents and moved to Ghana. 

Viaan went to court and obtained an emergency order granting him temporary full custody of their children, along with a "locate, serve and recover" order from the Contra Costa County district attorney's office.

He flew to Ghana in 2021 after getting tipped off about his ex-wife’s whereabouts. But Viaan said he was stonewalled by authorities  there who said they could not honor his documents and he was forced to fly home empty-handed. 

In the meantime, his kids were out of school in an unfamiliar country, he said.

Jackson spoke with KTVU over the phone from Ghana last year, denying that she’d abducted her kids. 

"In in no way, shape, or form kidnapped my children," she said, saying Viaan had blown the whole situation out of proportion. 

But after KTVU’s story ran last year, Viaan said authorities here took action. The DA’s office issued a warrant and federal authorities worked with officials in Ghana to intervene. 

In September, Viaan flew to Ghana to bring home his children. 

"That moment when I did see them walking through the door. It was like a new birth -- like seeing them be born again," Viaan said.

At the same time, Jackson was deported and picked up in the United States on an arrest warrant. 

She’s been charged with two counts of child detention with right to custody, two counts of kidnapping, forgery, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged document. 

She’s pleaded not guilty. 

Jackson’s attorney did not return messages or phone calls. Efforts to reach Jackson at her family’s home in Antioch were unsuccessful. 

While the criminal case proceeds. Viaan said he’s just happy to have his kids back. 

"Just to hug them and embrace them in that moment is something I’ll never take for granted ever again being a father," he said. 

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky