Oklahoma judge's child custody ruling prompts state attorney general, Major County DA to seek emergency review
Oklahoma's top prosecutor is seeking a review of a decision that left four Liberian-born girls in the custody of adoptive parents convicted of abusing the girls' sister.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Major County District Attorney Hollis Thorp filed an emergency application Thursday seeking a judicial review in the case.
Edmondson and Thorp are requesting a stay and review of Major County District Judge Vinson Barefoot's decision.
Barefoot ruled Monday the children would remain with their adoptive parents despite testimony from their 28-year-old son that he, too, was abused by the couple as a child, said Melvin Johnson, the girls' attorney.
The child welfare case is linked to a criminal case involving the abuse of the second-oldest of five sisters adopted in 2005 from an orphanage in Liberia, Africa.
The girl, now 13, endured abuse from her entire adoptive family, according to court records. She is living with relatives in another state.
Her adoptive parents, Ardee Verlon Tyler, 51, and Penny Sue Tyler, 46, were convicted of felony child abuse and received 10-year suspended prison sentences. The girl was tied to bedposts, forced to sleep outside and denied food for several days as punishment, authorities say.
She also was abused by the Tyler's biological children. Ashton Tyler, 21, was convicted of sexually assaulting her and sentenced to two years in prison with eight years of probation. Nathania Tyler, 20, was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery and was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence.
Edmondson said in light of the decision in the case of the abused 13-year-old, he is troubled by the decision to keep the other four girls in the custody of the Tylers.
"Terminating parental rights to one child does not guarantee the safety and well-being of the other siblings," Edmondson said. "The order releasing the children from Department of Human Services' custody was issued despite objections from D.A. Thorp's office and an attorney for the children.
"Our office has extremely limited authority to question a judge's decisions, but the Oklahoma Children's Code does provide some opening in some cases regarding child custody."
Edmondson said the authority for him to intervene comes from the Ryan Luke law, passed after the 1995 death of Ryan Luke, 2, in Pittsburg County.
As set out by statute, Edmondson and Thorp asked the court to hold a hearing on the matter within five judicial days.