Children Returned To Couple Charged In Death Of Boy
by CHUCK AYERS, The Morning Call.
The children of a Montgomery County couple charged in the death of a 4- year-old Salvadoran boy were returned to their parents yesterday after a court hearing.
Laura, 4, and Jenny Moyer, 2, were reunited with their parents, Peter and Christine Moyer, after no evidence of child abuse was presented during an adjudication hearing before county Judge Paul Tressler, according to the Moyers' attorney, Robert J. Kerns of Lansdale.
Kerns said the parents "were overjoyed. . . . Mrs. Moyer was crying" after an attorney for the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth Services presented no evidence of physical abuse and Tressler dismissed the case.
Kerns said 25-30 friends, relatives and neighbors were at the hearing to support the Moyers. He said he had eight witnesses prepared to testify on the couple's behalf on their observations of how the Moyers treated their children.
Laura and Jenny were ordered removed from the Moyers' home in Franconia Township on Dec. 18 by President Judge Richard S. Lowe after Carlos Beltran, an El Salvador native whom the Moyers planned to adopt, was found dead in his bed Dec. 14.
Kerns, taking exception with the children and youth agency's handling of the case, said, "I think children and youth services acted precipitously" and that "there were other steps they could have taken" to ensure the children's safety.
Kerns said the children were taken from the couple's home about 5 p.m. Dec. 18 on the basis of the court order. He said if there were "real problems" the children could have been taken from the home Dec. 15 when two county detectives and Franconia Police Chief Paul Hunsberger were there with a warrant to search the premises.
"Danger means imminent harm," Kerns said, "and if there were imminent harm, the county detectives could have taken the children when they were there."
Kerns also complained that the agency never called him to ask if a physical examination could be performed on the children to determine their well being.
"They never called me and they knew I was representing the Moyers," he said.
"Had they called and asked to have the children examined, we wouldn't have objected. A case worker could have come and we wouldn't have objected," he said. "But to get a court order and yank them out of there" could cause the children psychological harm.
Kerns said the children spent their first two days in the custody of the agency in a foster home, but subsequently the agency agreed to allow them to stay with the Rev. Albert Douglass of Little Zion Lutheran Church, Telford.
The parents are members of the congregation.
Kerns said the Moyers knew where the children were and were permitted to see them Christmas Day - which Kerns termed "very unusual."
Elizabeth Bernecker, deputy director at the children and youth office, said last night that it is "not all that unusual" for parents to know the whereabouts of children in the agency's custody.
She said only in cases of extreme and apparent physical abuse, in which parents would be unmanageable in a chaperoned situation with the children, would such information be withheld.
In the case of the Moyers, Bernecker said, the Rev. Douglass indicated an interest in keeping the children to minimize potential trauma to them. She said he thought it better to "keep them in familiar surroundings and with people they were more familiar with."
Agency officials concurred, she said, and the pastor became a foster parent through the agency.
Bernecker said the children initially were removed from the home "because of the extreme nature of the situation."
"There was a lot of things up in the air at the time of the children's removal regarding exactly to what extent the parents were involved" in Belgran's death, she said.
"I think in this case the (case) worker used a great deal of common sense," she said.
A preliminary hearing for the Moyers in Belgran's death is scheduled for Monday.