PHILIPPI - A scripted episode of "Law and Order: SVU" has as many twists and turns as a case heard in Barbour County Family Court Thursday morning. There, the fate of a baby girl and the freedom of her mother and maternal grandparents hung in the balance.
At issue was the location of 11-month-old Kadence Dawn Farley, the daughter of April Farley and Coty McCord, both of Philippi. April Farley had been incarcerated since Feb. 3 in Tygart Valley Regional Jail after being found in contempt of court by Judge Beth Longo for failure to disclose her daughter's whereabouts or produce the infant for a scheduled visitation with McCord.
Rather than produce the child, Farley chose to remain incarcerated for 17 days out of fear for her daughter's safety. Thursday's hearing was in response to a petition by her mother, Misty Dawn Thorne Ware, for custody of the child. The maternal grandmother sought temporary guardianship of the infant in conjunction with her partner, David Kaufman, in place of McCord.
"I watched my daughter suffer, and now I am going to have to watch my granddaughter (suffer)," Ware said.
Rather than do that, she elected to seek custody versus allowing McCord to have unsupervised access to the little girl.
The family alleges McCord poses a danger to the infant because of pending indictments against him from October in Barbour County Circuit Court for felony burglary and conspiracy charges as well as a count of misdemeanor petit larceny. Ware also alleges McCord sexually assaulted a minor female, though no charges are pending at this time.
Farley successfully filed and was granted a domestic violence protective order in January against McCord, a day before her daughter's scheduled visitation with him. They allege that is why the visitation was not carried out at that time.
"I just want my kid," McCord said in response to not seeing his daughter. "That's all I care about."
McCord claims Farley would not let him see his daughter, starting from the time the infant was 1 week old.
"I only filed for (visitation) three days a week; that's all I wanted," McCord said. "I'm not going to give up full custody. I love my daughter to death."
Despite those assertions, Farley's family believes the indictments make him unfit to have custody of the child, even though McCord was granted partial custody of Kadence in August. Then, a court order dated Jan. 16 indicates McCord is to have custody of the child for three days per week and that no supervision is necessary. It also states Farley is in "contempt of court and has been warned that if she does not comply with this order, she faces losing custody of the child."
Because the baby was not turned over to authorities at a Feb. 3 hearing, Farley again was found in contempt of court by Judge Longo. Farley not only was incarcerated until such time the child was handed over to McCord, but she also lost any custody of her daughter.
In addition, Judge Longo threatened to incarcerate Ware and Kaufman Thursday if they did not produce the child within an hour, Ware said. She indicated she and Kaufman were remanded to a cell at the Barbour County Courthouse for approximately two hours, until Kaufman made a phone call that led them to Kadence's location. The baby subsequently was turned over to McCord, resulting in Farley, Kaufman and Ware being released. None of the three are allowed access to the infant at this time.
"I was just scared. I didn't know what was going on," a distraught Farley said via telephone late Thursday, when describing her time in jail.
She indicated she couldn't continue with the interview because the loss of her daughter was too painful to discuss.
Ware said the family isn't giving up and will continue to fight, noting that in addition to serving jail time, they also have made other personal sacrifices.
"We're selling everything we have," Ware said, noting the money raised from items such as her car is being invested into the legal battle.
They plan to file an appeal sometime today.
When contacting Judge Longo's office Thursday about the case, The Inter-Mountain reporter was told by her secretary that the judge wouldn't comment on a civil matter. Several other in-person attempts to reach the judge elicited the same response.
The custody drama is one that has played out in a public format. Both Ware and Michelle Knotts Starkey, the baby's paternal grandmother, have open Facebook pages that document the struggles each side alleges they face. The comments, some of which contain foul language and take personal jabs at the parties involved, were available for public viewing as of presstime.
Starkey has encouraged her son to fight for visitation with and custody of his daughter, viewing April Farley's actions as the equivalent of custodial kidnapping, though no such charges have been filed in the case.
"All we've ever wanted to do is see her (Kadence)," Starkey said. "We're just waiting to see her. I haven't seen her since she was born."
Ware disputes that and the justification the court used for the child's removal.
"They cannot just take a child from you for no reason," Ware said, adding that the court order just cites contempt. "They didn't even have a reason for why the child's been taken away. And (contempt) is not a reason to do that. ...
"How can they do that to someone? (Farley's) never done anything wrong," Ware continued. "She was a good mother, and they just ripped that poor baby out of her hands - just like it was nothing."