Father charged with kidnapping his son rents roadside billboard to send him a message

A father who last year was charged with kidnapping his 6-year-old son has purchased space on a billboard in downtown Modesto, he says, to express his love for his child and bring awareness to fathers’ custody rights.

Just over a year ago, John Cosso was arrested for allegedly forcefully taking his son Jayce from his mother’s home on Sept. 24, 2018, with the help of five other people, including his 17-year-old son.

Jayce was found with his father the next day at a hotel in Dublin. Cosso and his teenage son were arrested, and Jayce was reunited with his mother.

A few days ago, a poster went up on a billboard at Tuolumne Boulevard and Seventh Street featuring a picture of Cosso and Jayce, a rocky coastline in the background and the message, “I’m always here for you Jayce, Daddy loves you!”

Cosso also posted a banner at his College Avenue area home.

Below the message is the name of the social media accounts set up by Cosso under the name Justice4Jayce, which he says are intended to promote fathers, as well as a web address,

The “About” section of that page says the movement is made up of members who are passionate about empowering fathers and educating the public and the family court system about the importance of fathers in society.

“Everyday, fathers are losing their rights and contact with their children due to outdated biases that diminishes the role and influence of a father,” the page reads.

Cosso hasn’t seen or spoken to Jayce since his arrest last year. There is an emergency protective order barring him from contact, according to court records.

Jayce’s mother, Kimberly Valente, and her sisters said last year that Cosso, his teenage son from a previous relationship, another man and three women participated in the kidnapping. Valente said the men ripped Jayce from her arms after they smashed the window of the vehicle in which she was trying to flee with Jayce.

Cosso is charged with kidnapping, burglary, permitting a child to suffer under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury, domestic battery and vandalism.

Reached by phone on Monday, Cosso said the billboard “is about a little boy who is used to his father and now he doesn’t have one at all.”

“I am not a weekend daddy,” he continued. “(Jayce) can’t speak for himself. If he could, I am sure he would want both his parents.”

In response to the billboard and social media accounts, Valente said in a text to The Bee on Monday, “I’m disturbed and saddened by his delusion, his disregard for what he’s done to us.”

“It’s attention seeking, abusive and exploitative and based on lies,” she continued. “This isn’t a custody case, this is a criminal case, and my son is a victim.”

Prior to the alleged kidnapping, Valenta and Cosso had been involved in a custody dispute starting when the child was about 2 years old.

Cosso said he’s been reaching out to other fathers who are or have been involved in custody disputes.

When the Amber Alert was first issued for 2-year-old John Weir a few weeks ago, Cosso said he sent a direct message on Facebook to Steven Weir, the Merced County father who presumably killed his 2-year-old son before killing himself after he allegedly kidnapped the boy.

He said he told him, “I have been accused of kidnapping my child and I am on bail and you are not alone.”

“I didn’t want him to get freaked out or feel alone,” Cosso said. “I sent him a personal message. I wish I could have done more.”

Cosso said he could not discuss his pending case, but in one of two Facebook Live posts that he posted Sunday, he said, “I felt in fear for (Jayce’s) safety so I did what I needed to do. I don’t abuse kids, I don’t abuse women.”

Cosso said he chose Sunday to “unveil” the billboard on Facebook Live because it was the day he and Jayce used to spend “going to get McDonald’s together or Denny’s and me having coffee and watching cartoons in the morning and snuggling.”

Cosso’s attorney, Hans Hjertonsson, said he would not discuss the case because he was only recently retained and is not up to date on discovery. He said he plans to ask the court for a continuance of the preliminary hearing that is scheduled for Monday.

Details about Cosso’s son’s case are not available to the public because it is being handled in juvenile court.

Police and prosecutors have not commented on why the other four people present at the alleged kidnapping have not been charged.

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Erin has been covering breaking news and crime at The Modesto Bee since 2010. She is a Humboldt State graduate and resides in Oakdale.