Liberian sisters' custody remains in Major County court

Date: 2010-11-23

Prosecutors in Major County aim to sever the parental rights of a Fairview couple who adopted five-Liberian-born sisters, and were convicted of abusing one of the girls


FAIRVIEW — Prosecutors are seeking to end the parental rights of a Fairview couple who adopted five Liberian-born sisters and were convicted of abusing one of the girls.

At a closed hearing Monday in Major County District Court, Ardee and Penny Tyler asked for a jury to decide the child welfare case. The trial is scheduled for Jan. 24.

The couple were convicted in February of abusing the second-oldest girl, who now lives in Illinois with relatives. Their son, Ashton Tyler, 20, is in prison for sexually assaulting the girl, now 15. Her Liberian sisters have been in foster homes since April.

Local prosecutors and the state attorney general's office Monday requested the parental rights of the couple be terminated.

Defense attorney Ron Willis said the Tylers are passionate about their fight to regain custody of the girls.

“They're willing to do what it takes,” Willis said. “They love their children.”

The four girls, ages 5 to 16, are in two foster homes. The Tylers are no longer allowed to have supervised visits with their daughters because it was counterproductive to the children's counseling, sources close to the case told The Oklahoman.

Attorney Melvin Johnson has accused the Tylers of brainwashing the girls and turning them against their sister who made the abuse accusations. Johnson, of Atlanta and Liberian-born, volunteered last year to be the children's attorney.

The four girls said they were not abused.

The Tylers were accused of tying their second oldest-daughter's wrists to a bedpost, making her sleep on the back porch and denying her food. The couple were convicted of child abuse and received suspended prison sentences.

A child welfare case launched with the criminal case was closed shortly after their conviction. Major County Associate District Judge Vinson Barefoot ruled the children would stay with their parents.

Prosecutors asked the state Supreme Court to appoint another judge to review the case. In April, Harmon County Associate Judge Mike Warren reopened the child welfare inquiry and removed the girls from the Tylers' custody.

Johnson said Monday the girls are now attending public school and have made friends.

“They are doing exceptionally well despite everything they have been through,” Johnson said.

The relationship with their sister in Illinois remains strained and for two years they've had almost no contact with her. Johnson said counselors are working to repair their relationship.


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