In October 2002, the Rocky Mountain News screamed that a Fort Collins judge had legalized the kidnapping of a woman's twin sons via Social Services. The public was appropriately outraged and you might think that was an isolated incident. Not in Colorado! Children are treated as property of the State and having a "right " to your child is a mere delusion. The State will determine in all cases who shall raise a child and you can safely bet it won't be the father.
In April 2004 the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Weld County Department of Social Services and Magistrate P. Dinsmore Tuttle erroneously took permanent custody of a child who had been in the state two days.
The appeals court ruled the little girl's home state is Texas, not Colorado. They found that the father, Joseph Culpepper, possessed a Texas custody order when Colorado took his daughter. Yet Culpepper has not been allowed to visit or speak to his daughter, let alone take her home.
The child, Meagan, was born March 15, 1999, in Texas to Mystina Turner and Joseph Culpepper, who were then living in a mobile home near Galveston. Joe and Mystina had a stormy relationship and in September 2000 he gained temporary custody of the little girl with a Texas restraining order. The order prevented Mystina from taking Meagan from her father, changing Meagan's residence from Santa Fe, Texas, withdrawing her from school or day care, or removing Meagan beyond the jurisdiction of the Texas court.
Following that, Mystina Turner came alone to Colorado, where her grandmother, Wanda Turner, gave Mystina a place to live in Firestone in Weld County, and a job at the nursing home she managed in Louisville in Boulder County.
Despite the restraining order, and against the advice of his relatives, Joseph Culpepper brought his daughter, then 20-months old, to Weld County from Texas for a visit with Mystina over Thanksgiving Day weekend in 2000. He had full custody and was demonstrating consideration for the mother by making the trip.
As Culpepper tried to leave with Meagan, Mystina Turner and her grandmother called Firestone and Louisville police to stop him. In 43 minutes, three calls concerning Joseph Culpepper were placed to two police departments.
On the basis of the Turner's complaint, Louisville police arrested Joseph Culpepper for alleged disorderly conduct at the nursing home Wanda Turner managed. His reported crime: yelling in the hallways for Mystina. Culpepper said he did go to the nursing home to find her and say goodbye, but he denied causing a disturbance.
The call to the Firestone police department didn't quite work out as Mystina Turner planned. On December 3, 2001, they arrested her for slashing Culpepper's tires and falsely accusing him of stealing $600 from her.
Mystina was charged under C.R.S. § 18-4-501 with criminal mischief and under C.R.S. § 18-8-111 with false reporting. She appeared in the court of County Judge Gilbert Gutierrez on January 25, 2001, where she pled guilty to the criminal mischief complaint and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, which was suspended, and two years probation.
Ms. Turner apparently didn't think the terms of her probation should apply to her. Court records show that a complaint to revoke her probation was made on April 4, 2002, and a warrant issued against her for failure to appear. A hearing on revocation of Mystina's probation was held on May 28, 2002, in County Judge Carol M. Haller's court but Mystina remained free.
For reasons probably related to her DUI charge in Boulder County (see below), a hearing was held on August 16, 2002, during which County Judge Carol M. Haller continued Mystina Turner's probation for another year.
But just a month later court records show another complaint for revocation of probation on September 24, 2002, accompanied by a warrant for Mystina's arrest for failure to comply. A hearing was held on October 3, 2002, again in County Judge Carol M. Haller's court. Judge Carol Haller then revoked the one year probation she had imposed in September and sentenced Ms. Turner to 90 days in jail with 10 days credit for time served.
Court records show that dealing with Mystina Turner's false reporting and criminal mischief required sixteen (16) court hearings before two judges and forty-eight (48) scheduled events are listed in court records in this case.
The effect on the father, who only tried to allow his little girl to visit with her mother, was the loss of his daughter. And the false reporting by Mystina that led to his grievous loss was never punished.
Court records show Mystina Turner was arrested by Longmont police at 11:50 PM on June 3, 2002, for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) under C.R.S. § 42-4-1301(1)(a) and turning improperly C.R.S. § 42-4-901. Under a plea bargain she pled guilty to Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) C.R.S. § 42-4-1301(1)(b) in County Judge David Archuleta's court. She was sentenced on August 19, 2002, to 18-months alcohol evaluation and supervision probation and 24 hours of community service.
Mystina violated the terms of her probation (see next case) and a summons was issued, and a hearing held on December 19, 2002, to revoke her probation. Apparently on February 24, 2003, County Judge David Archuleta continued her alcohol supervision probation for an additional 18 months.
Not one content with a life of peace and quiet, on September 21, 2002, at 9:02 PM, Mystina Turner was arrested for aggravated assault on a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, under C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(c). While in jail she was charged with two additional aggravated assaults, both Class 4 felonies, for attacking a guard under C.R.S. 18-3-203(1(f) and assault with bodily fluids (presumably mucous or urine) under C.R.S. § 18-3-203(1)(f.5).
As one might expect, Ms. Turner was inebriated again at the time of her arrest and received a second DUI under C.R.S. § 42-4-1301(1)(a),(9)(a)(II) as well as a charge under C.R.S. § 42-2-138(1)(a) of driving under restraint while her license was suspended due to her previous DWAI conviction.
On these charges Mystina Turner appeared in District Judge Morris Sandstead's court on February 14, 2002. Under the terms of a plea bargain, she pled guilty to aggravated assault in jail with bodily fluids and the other charges were dismissed. District Judge Morris Sandstead then sentenced her to one year work release and four years probation with a probation supervision fee of $2,160, and other court costs, for a total of $2,515.
It is well to keep in mind that through all of this Meagan's father has done nothing except attempt to bring his daughter for a visit with her mother. The court cases above provide a fair summary of the mother's character and behavior.
Meagan's father was put in jail on the basis of false allegations by Mystina Turner. Mystina couldn't have her because the father had custody and a restraining order against her in Texas. The arresting officer in Louisville then called a child-protection worker, who decided Weld County should take Meagan because she was "temporarily staying" in Firestone.
Because the father was in jail, safely "out of the way," the Weld County Department of Social Services happily took custody of the little girl to gain the funding bonuses associated with such State kidnappings.
Incredibly, in 2004 Weld County attorney Mark Rapp argued that Culpepper abandoned his Texas custody case before his arrest, which was based on false allegations, and therefore Colorado appropriately kept Meagan. One can only assume that any parent who brings their child to Colorado for a visit thereby surrenders custody to the State.
A petition in dependency and neglect was filed against both parents on November 30, 2000, in Weld County Magistrate P. Dinsmore Tuttle's court. Conveniently for the State, the petition by social services did not advise the court of the Texas restraining order.
Joseph Culpepper requested that counsel be appointed to represent him, but this request was denied based on his income. He was then forced to appear pro se and the dependency and neglect proceeding against him continued even though Magistrate P. Dinsmore Tuttle did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
Proceeding without jurisdiction is a common theme encountered by the Equal Justice Foundation in Colorado court cases.
On January 12, 2001, barely a month after taking Meagan from a father who had legal custody under a Texas court order, and a restraining order against Mystina Turner concerning custody of the child, in direct and flagrant disregard of that order Weld County social services gave Meagan to her mother. Further, the child was not a Colorado resident.
However, Mystina Turner said she was suffering from untreated depression, the trauma of separation from Meagan's father, and the parenting demands imposed by a county caseworker, to say nothing of innumerable court appearances for slashing tires, drunken driving, and felony assaults. So two months later Weld County took Meagan back and gave her to a foster home. All this despite the fact the father had legal custody in Texas the entire time and Colorado did not have jurisdiction over the child.
When Joe Culpepper found out Meagan was in a foster home, he went to pick up his daughter and discovered that he had "no right" to do so. Relying on the courts to back them up, Weld County social services told Culpepper that they now controlled the fate of his daughter. By this immoral and degenerate process, foster home couple Jodee and Jody Rupple in Greeley apparently acquired standing to argue that Joseph Culpepper should not have his own daughter.
Meanwhile, Culpepper, who had never done anything wrong, was forced to try and meet similar demands by Weld County Department of Social Services by completing a parenting program and passing a drug-and-alcohol evaluation in Texas. Sometimes he drove 1,200 miles north to Greeley to spend 45 minutes with Meagan while a caseworker watched them interact in a supervised environment for which Culpepper had to pay an hourly fee.
"It was rough, but I cherished it," he said. "It was real hard to sit there and play with my daughter while someone watched on the other side of the mirror. They treated me like I was some type of molester or murderer."
Once Joe tried moving to Colorado "without a house, without a job, nothing." He found a car-repair job near Interstate 25 and "lived in my truck across the freeway at a truck stop" but eventually returned to Texas alone in frustration.
Eventually, social service case workers would no longer even let him call his daughter. On her fourth birthday, "I had to sing happy birthday to her on the answering machine. I wanted her to know I still loved her."
Culpepper sought review of the magistrate's decision and in August 2002 District Court Judge Roger Klein adopted the magistrate's illegal order terminating the father's parental rights, still without jurisdiction to do so.
Both Magistrate Tuttle and District Judge Klein ignored the law to enter a decision to terminate a father's right to his child and "convey" the child to a foster couple even though Meagan had only been in Colorado a few days and they had no jurisdiction to make such a decision.
In his motion for review of the magistrate's order of termination, Culpepper asserted that Magistrate Tuttle erred and exceeded the bounds of her temporary emergency jurisdiction. In denying that motion, District Judge Klein found that Culpepper failed to file any Texas orders establishing that the Texas domestic violence proceeding constituted a custody determination. However, it was later noted that Judge Roger Klein had received into evidence a copy of the Texas restraining order and simply ignored it in his finding.
After the parties submitted their initial appellate briefs, the Court of Appeals noted that documents filed by the Weld County Department of Social Services indicated that a Texas restraining order was in effect when this proceeding commenced. The appeals court therefore concluded that the determination of subject matter jurisdiction could depend upon the existence of a restraining order in Texas and the duration of such order.
The Court of Appeals then took the unusual step of issuing an order of limited remand and directed District Judge Klein to hold an evidentiary hearing and make findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), § 14-13-101, et seq., C.R.S. 2003. See People in Interest of Clinton, 762 P.2d 1381 (Colo. 1988)(any requirement implicating the court's subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived and can be raised at any time).
Following a hearing, District Judge Klein finally recognized that Texas was Meagan's home state. However, Roger Klein concluded that he and Magistrate P. Dinsmore Tuttle had temporary emergency jurisdiction to hear the dependency and neglect proceedings, notwithstanding the existence of the Texas restraining order at the time this matter was filed. The appeal was then recertified to the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals then determined that Judge Klein and Magistrate Tuttle exceeded their limited temporary emergency jurisdiction when this matter was filed and reversed the Weld County courts ruling on jurisdiction.
"Based on the restraining order and the information in the record advising the court of its existence, it was incumbent upon the magistrate to limit the duration of the exercise of temporary emergency jurisdiction. This was not done. We disagree with the district court's conclusion that temporary emergency jurisdiction could be exercised up to the date of the adjudicatory hearing on February 8, 2001. "Assumption of emergency jurisdiction does not confer upon the state exercising emergency jurisdiction the authority to make a permanent custody disposition." In re C.T., supra, 100 Cal. App. 4th at 108, 121 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 904. Likewise, we conclude that the exercise of temporary emergency jurisdiction may not last until the trial court can enter an adjudicatory order finding a child dependent and neglected.
That, indeed, is what occurred here. Because the trial court did not limit the duration of temporary emergency jurisdiction and did not contact the Texas court that issued a restraining order, the purpose of the UCCJEA was frustrated. As a result, father, who had resided in Texas before and during the commencement of these proceedings, had little opportunity to obtain a determination of permanent custody and attempt to prevent the termination of his parental rights in Texas, the home state of his daughter.
Accordingly, we conclude that the magistrate and the district court exceeded their jurisdiction by not limiting the period they exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction. This error was clearly not harmless, because it resulted in termination of father's parental rights without affording him the opportunity to litigate custody issues in the child's home state of Texas.
"However, given the length of time that the child has now resided in Colorado, we remand this matter to the district court to make such temporary protective orders as are necessary for the welfare of the child. See E.P. v. Dist. Court, supra (although Colorado court did not have jurisdiction under UCCJA, it could enter temporary protective orders for the child's welfare)."
Thus, the appeals court further alienates the child from her father. And one might bet those champions of parental rights, District Judge Roger Klein and Magistrate P. Dinsmore Tuttle, will delay, obfuscate, and deny Joseph Culpepper at every possible step. Culpepper's attorney expects the case to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, by which time the little girl will be a teenager.
You would think there could be nothing left to decide that Joe takes his daughter home but that's not the case. The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the Weld County District Court (the court that approved of the degenerate acts perpetrated by social service's case workers) for a determination on whether Joe gets to have his daughter back.
The foster parents then fought to keep Joseph Culpepper's daughter using the demented logic that the little girl is settled in their home and it would be traumatic to move her. On April 15, 2004, just seven days after the Colorado Court of Appeals handed down its ruling that Colorado did not have jurisdiction, Jody and Jodee Rupple of Greeley filed a petition for custody of Meagan in Weld County District Judge James Hartmann's court.
By some whim of good fortune (one hesitates to credit common sense) the court closed and dismissed that case October 22, 2004, and it is our understanding that Meagan then moved back to Texas with her father.
It would seem that the State of Colorado and Weld County created the mess, they should have fixed it. They could have bought Joe a house next door to the foster parents out of the 19 th Judicial District's budget and allowed the child to be reacquainted with her dad. Certainly this would be the least the State of Colorado should do for stealing a child. But humanity plays no part in these cases and so the child is simply subjected to one more shock and left trying to adjust.
What will certainly happen is that Colorado taxpayers will be asked to fund larger budgets for the judiciary, social services, and district attorneys to deal with the increasing number of cases where the State steals our children.
According to Joe Culpepper's attorney, Rose Zapor, as of July 2007 Meagan is with her father in Texas as a result of the Court's dismissal of the Rupple's case and that she is doing very well with Joe. Although he has offered the Rupples the opportunity to talk or visit with Meagan, they have chosen not to do so and have not seen or talked to her since 2004.
Zapor also noted that the only reason they were able to make the arguments they did to the Colorado Court of Appeals was that Joe was very proactive in finding an attorney to file for the review of the Magistrate's order within 5 days (the statutory requirement to be able to file for an appeal). A father who has lost his rights cannot afford the luxury of grieving the loss he has to act immediately.
Partially in response to the outrage perpetrated by Social Services and Magistrate Tuttle in the Culpepper case, Zapor now limits her representation to children in an attempt to see that something like this does not happen again.