Nightmare Ordeal Over For Riverton Dad After Daughters Found In Florida With Mom

A nightmare ordeal is over for a Riverton man whose young daughters disappeared for more than two weeks. Brian Cowart was reunited with his daughters after they were found in Florida with their mother, who was arrested on Friday. “I’m used to talking to them every day,” he said. “It’s been really, really hard.”

Jen Kocher

February 18, 20244 min read

Lindsay Orchard
Lindsay Orchard (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Riverton dad has been reunited with his two young daughters and his ex-wife is in custody in Florida after absconding with the girls late last month.

Lindsay Orchard, 33, is being held on a warrant from Wyoming for interference with child custody. She was arrested late Friday afternoon by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in St. Petersburg for leaving the state with her two children Jan. 31 without permission of the custodial parent and father, Brian Cowart.

Cowart was awarded primary custody of the children Jan. 20, a revised agreement following the couple’s divorce in 2020. As the noncustodial parent, Orchard was granted “reasonable” visitation rights that allow her to take the children on spring break and for two months during the summer.

The revised agreement further requires Orchard to agree upon a time and place to exchange the children at least 30 days in advance of the visit.

On Oct. 10, 2023, Orchard had applied for a motion for urgent request to relocate, which was denied by the Sublette County District Court on Nov. 6.

Cowart was not informed that Orchard was taking the children to Florida, and after learning she had absconded with their daughters, he put out a call for help on the Facebook page for the nonprofit Missing People of Wyoming, asking for help finding his children.

What has followed has been a nearly three-week nightmare many parents involved in custody battles experience.

A Nightmare Ordeal

Cowart, who works as a driller on an oil rig in Colorado on a rotating two-week schedule, had just arrived home to pick up the girls from Orchard.

He said Orchard had recently lost her housing in Pinedale, where both Cowart and Orchard had lived previously before recently relocating to Riverton. Orchard and the children had been staying with Cowart’s sister while Cowart was on shift before announcing she and the girls planned to spend the night in a hotel before Cowart returned.

The next day, however, Orchard and the children were gone after being traced to a hotel in Lander.

Cowart then contacted both the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and the Riverton Police Department to file a missing person’s report for his girls but was told that Orchard taking them was a civil matter and had to be addressed through the courts.

This prompted Cowart, through his lawyer, to file an order in Sublette County District Court granting him temporary custody Feb. 7. He further filed an order to appear and show cause, which greenlighted law enforcement to take necessary action to enforce the order to get the children returned.

Photos On Facebook

During this time, Cowart suspected Orchard had gone to Florida but was sure where she might have taken the girls.

Typically, Cowart said he’s in regular contact with his children, even when out on the rig. All communication stopped, however, after they were taken by Orchard and he had no way to reach them.

The not knowing was the hardest part, Cowart said.  

“I’m used to talking to them every day,” he said. “It’s been really, really hard.”

Finally, nearly two weeks after they disappeared, Cowart spotted two photos of the girls on the Facebook page of Orchard’s father, indicating that they had indeed gone to stay with him in St. Petersburg.

Cowart immediately booked a flight to Florida and waited two days for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office to issue the warrant, while simultaneously working with an attorney in Florida to file the necessary paperwork.

Orchard was taken into custody Friday, and Cowart and the girls have since returned home to Wyoming.

“My heart is full knowing they are here and safe,” he said. “But at the same time, it is torn that they still have to pay for her consequences.”

Pushing For Tighter Laws

Violation of a custody order is a felony in Wyoming punishable by up to five years in prison, though some are pushing for harsher penalties.

A law currently before the Wyoming State Legislature, Senate File 36 — the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act — would allow district courts to establish prevention measures in cases where there’s a credible risk of abduction, including by parents.

The bill was placed on general file in the Senate on Feb. 14, after unanimously clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee 5-0.

Jen Kocher can be reached at

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Jen Kocher

Features, Investigative Reporter