December 7, 2009
Hiding Child in Custody Dispute Amounts to Abuse or Neglect
A mother's hiding of her son for nearly two years in his grandmother's home, often in a crawl space behind a wall, amounted to neglect, a judge ruled Friday.
Franklin County Circuit Judge Melissa Drew's ruling was based partly on her agreement with a counselor's belief that the seclusion left the boy, now 7, with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Authorities have said the child's mother, Shannon Wilfong, began hiding him in 2007 during a custody dispute with his father, Michael Chekevdia. Wilfong and her mother, Diane Dobbs, kept the windows of Dobbs' house near Royalton blocked off with shades or other items and deprived the boy of contact with peers, medical care and education, Drew said.
Testimony showed the boy was allowed outside only at night or in a fenced-in area not visible to passers-by.
The crawl space was roughly 5 feet by 12 feet and about the height of a washing machine, hidden behind what Drew said was "nothing more than a hole in the wall" concealed by a bookcase.
Wilfong's attorney, Susan Burger, argued there was no neglect during the boy's time in seclusion. He was home-schooled, had no issues requiring a trip to the doctor, and was allowed to play outside, she said.
"This was not a case where the child was locked up, put in a crawl space, behind walls," Burger said.
The child at issue is currently in the temporary custody of a relative, while his parents battle for custody. Mom can't expect to fare too well when the court issues its ruling, expected in early January.
Read the full story here.
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