Vancouver parents say daughter was 'legally kidnapped'
VANCOUVER, Wash. - Michael and Stacey Trumbo are desperate to get their 16-year-old daughter back after they say she was legally kidnapped.
A judge gave custody of their daughter to her boyfriend's family. But the parents never got to tell the judge their side of the story.
If they could have, the Trumbos would have told the judge that the boyfriend was just convicted of being a sex offender.
After KATU started asking questions, the judge brought everyone back to court in Clark County Wednesday afternoon to sort things out.
At the Trumbos' home on Saturday, Anna Trumbo's parents tried to convince her to stay. But she left with Paula Betschart, who is the mother of Anna Trumbo's boyfriend.
Betschart had the legal right to take custody of Anna, whom she had only known for a matter of months. That's because a Clark County judge agreed to a non-parental custody petition filed by Betschart. She went before a judge and told her side of the story.
The Trumbos weren't offered the same opportunity.
To get Anna away from her parents, Betschart told the judge she's saving Anna from "physical, sexual or a pattern of emotional abuse," saying she "continually tried to kill herself in the care of her parents."
It wasn't the first time Betschart tried for custody of Anna. In March she filed similar paperwork only to ask for "dismissal" of the case three weeks later saying Anna "lied to us about the facts."
Around the same time, Anna posted sonograms on her Facebook page showing she was pregnant with twins. Along with it was a statement from Betschart saying, "If your parents do ANYTHING to harm MY GRANDBABIES it will be THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF THEIR LIFES."
Michael Trumbo said the sonograms were fakes and her daughter has never been pregnant.
"My daughter has some issues," he said. "I look at it as my daughter wants to run away, and here's somebody, an adult, who's willing to lie to the court to help her do that."
It all happened with no investigation by police and no investigation by child protective services.
In the middle of it all is Betschart's 17-year-old son, Robert, who's supposedly the father of the twins. He pleaded guilty to "communicating with a minor for immoral purposes" and has to register as a sex offender for trying to do sexual acts with a 12-year-old girl.
At first the Betscharts didn't want to talk to a reporter at their Camas apartment. But later they came outside, and in between hurling four-letter insults to a KATU News camera crew, said Anna needs protection from her parents.
"What her father is telling you is a lie," Paula Betschart said. "I have a court order. Obviously, the court felt she was in jeopardy, otherwise they would not have given me an emergency order to remove here from their house."
While KATU was there, caseworkers from child protective services showed up. That's because the Trumbos demanded to know why their daughter was allowed to live with a sex offender.
On Wednesday, Judge David Gregerson called everyone to court a week before the Trumbos were finally scheduled to finally get to tell their side of the story.
"I have reviewed the material and it caused great concern to the court, and that's why I wanted to bring the parties in," he said.
Gregerson scolded Betschart for leaving him in the dark about key information, presumably about her son's conviction. And then scolded her for re-filing the case after another judge dismissed her first attempt back in March.
He ruled that Betschart has no custodial rights to Anna ordered the girl returned to her parents.
"If they put their hands on her and try to put her in their car, then I'm going to call the cops for assault," Paula Betschart said as she left court.
Outside the courtroom, the sad situation continued. Anna refused to go with her parents; instead, she chose to go with sheriff's deputies.
One of the reasons Anna gives for wanting to leave her parents is her father overdosed in front of her four years ago.
Michael Trumbo says he battles depression and he spiraled down.
Anna is now in the custody of child protective services.
The non-parental custody order is like an emergency restraining order.
Chris Sundstrom, a family law attorney not involved in this case, said it's usually used by a family member like a grandparent trying to convince a judge to give them emergency custody of a grandchild from dysfunctional parents without a trial.
"There were allegations the child was suicidal and was cutting herself and her needs were not being met with the parents," Sundstrom said. "I have to assume the judge erred on the side of safety but recognizing that this would get a full hearing within 14 days of the execution of the ex parte order."
The judge told Paula Betschart she can't file a new case unless she uses a lawyer.