Steven Cross left his son with a Lakeville neighbor in 2011.
A year after being abandoned by his father, a 12-year-old Lakeville boy on Thursday was finally reunited privately with his runaway dad.
"I apologized to him," said Steven Cross, who abandoned his son, Sebastian, last year as the pair was going to lose their Lakeville home.
"I told him it was my fault and that I was sorry for all the trouble that's he been through because of it."
Still, Cross said afterward, "it was my fault but not all my fault. Maybe I didn't handle it so good but it wasn't all my fault. I got so cornered in this bad economy."
The reunion happened despite the reservations of Sebastian's aunt, who cared for him through much of the past year and fought to keep custody.
The one-hour meeting Thursday took place in the office of a therapist that Cross, 60, and Sebastian are working with to help with their reunification.
"It sounds like it went well," said Jeffrey Priest, the attorney helping Cross with custody issues resulting from the abandonment. "I would really like this case to be closed."
That is now likely to happen by July 25, when a review hearing is scheduled in Dakota County District Court.
Cross, who was sentenced to two years of probation and a one-year stayed jail term after being convicted earlier this year of misdemeanor child neglect, had sole custody of the boy before fleeing to California last July 18.
Since then, Cross has agreed to joint legal and physical custody of his son with Sebastian's mother, Katik Porter, who his son had believed was dead.
The boy did not discover that she was alive until reading it in a note that Cross left for him on the day he left. The note instructed Sebastian to go to a neighbor's home because his father was leaving, ostensibly to find work to support them.
Cross had a deli job and was living in his van in Cambria, Calif., when police arrested him Aug. 29. He hadn't contacted his son but had asked a friend to check on him.
While Cross was gone, Sebastian lived with his great-aunt, Kimii Porter. Last month, Sebastian was ordered to move out of her home and to live with his mother.
Kimii Porter said Thursday that she sees Sebastian on Saturdays at her home. "It's limited," she said. "It's been tough."
Kimii Porter, a Hennepin County probation officer, expressed mixed emotions about Thursday's meeting between father and son.
"In a sense it's good," she said. "In order for [Sebastian] to move on he's got to get a handle on what happened. But it's a pretty sad story; to me it's like putting a victim back with the perpetrator."
A brief encounter
Cross had briefly seen his son for the first time since leaving during a court hearing in May. Thursday was the first time he was able to talk to the boy in about a year.
"I got a hug and I was very happy," Cross said. "It's been cloudy for quite a while and now the sun is shining."
The therapist had Sebastian wait in another room while she talked with Cross for about 10 minutes. Sebastian was able to monitor the conversation via a video feed, wearing headphones to listen to the chatter.
The boy was then given a choice of seeing his father or waiting for another day. He chose to see him, Cross said.
The pair played cards for 30 minutes, then spent about 15 minutes talking about upcoming movies they might like and possibly going to get ice cream sometime soon, Cross said.
"The heaviest part was me apologizing," Cross said.
Cross said he and Sebastian will probably have a few more sessions with the therapist. But he and Sebastian are at least talking about spending more time together.
"It has to be what Sebastian wants," Cross said. "If he wants to see his dad it's up to him."
Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281