Suspended sentences given in Oklahoma abuse case
BY ANN KELLEY
FAIRVIEW — Liberian-born Mary Tyler testified Monday she thought she was coming to a free country when brought to Oklahoma. She said since her adoptive parents were accused of abuse, she’s felt like she’s in prison.
Penny and Ardee Tyler and their son, Ashton, arrive Monday at the Major County Courthouse for their trial in an adoption abuse case in Fairview. Photo by David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
Tyler, 16, was the star witness Monday in Major County District Court for her parents, Ardee Verlon Tyler, 51, and Penny Sue Tyler, 46. The Fairvew couple pleaded no contest to felony child abuse charges in connection with the abuse of another of their adopted girls, now age 13.
Judge Ray Dean Linder gave both parents 10-year suspended prison sentences, but is requiring Penny Tyler to spend 60 days in the county jail beginning Monday.
The sentencing for their son, Ashton Tyler, 20, charged with felony rape by instrumentation, was rescheduled for March. He has pleaded no contest, and like his parents is allowing a judge to determine his punishment rather than a jury.
Their daughter, Nathania Tyler, 21, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery. She was sentenced Monday to 90 days in jail, all suspended.
Linder said he was reluctant to give Ardee Tyler time behind bars partly because the family household relies on the $20,000 annual income he brings in as a carpenter. Taking him out of the home would cause an undue hardship on the family, especially the children, he said. For that same reason he imposed no fine on either parent.
Linder said he also took into consideration a "voluminous” report from the Tylers’ presentencing investigation, which recommended jail time for Penny Tyler and none for Ardee Tyler. In the end, it was the testimony of Mary Tyler that was the most compelling, he said.
4 kids remain in home
Mary Tyler, along with four younger sisters, the youngest now 5, were adopted by the Tylers in 2005. Four remain in the Tyler home, even after their 13-year-old sister’s allegations of abuse.
Mary Tyler testified their father was unable to care for them in Liberia after their mother died and they were taken to an orphanage. She said in Africa they lived in a shack absent of plumbing and electricity, and they slept many nights in water from a leaky roof.
She said the streets were riddled with bullet casings and sometimes bodies from the war-torn country. Children there learned they have to sometimes steal food if they want to eat, she said.
Mary Tyler said her life with the Tylers is "great,” and she doesn’t want to be separated from them.
Whether the girls should remain with their adopted parents was scheduled to be decided after Monday’s sentencing, but that decision was postponed until March.
Whitney Russ, a child welfare worker, testified officials with the state Department of Human Services feel that at this time the children are safe, and she is recommending they stay in the home if the Tylers are not jailed.
The victim cried in the back of the courtroom after the judge ruled.
Friends and relatives cried with her. A janitor distributed five boxes of tissue to the audience.
Adoptive dad testifies
Ardee Tyler didn’t deny the abuse. He testified the victim had emotional problems he and his wife were not equipped to deal with, and out of frustration they punished her.
He said he tied the girl to a bedpost, but with light fabric where she could have gotten loose, and only made her sleep outside because she had urinated on the floor after being confronted for misbehaving.
He said he and his wife were turned down for assistance from as many as five psychiatric treatment centers for adolescents. They finally opted to send the girl to live with a relative, he said.
"After that it was like all the tension in the house was lifted,” Ardee Tyler said.
Assistant District Attorney Tim Haworth said he’s concerned the sentence will send a negative message to child abusers.
"The defense said these parents have gone through hell with this case,” Haworth said. "It’s the victim that’s gone through hell, and she’ll be paying for their abuse for the rest of her life.”