Families protest judge’s decision to give custody of child to sex offender
OKLAHOMA CITY- More families are coming forward hoping to shed light on a judge’s decision to award custody of a child to a convicted sex offender.
Nicholas Elizondo, from California, spent time in prison for lewd acts with his then 6-year-old stepdaughter in 1995.
After being released from jail, Elizondo began fighting for sole custody of his daughter.
In June, Oklahoma County Judge Howard Haralson awarded full custody of 6-year-old Sarah to him.
A few weeks ago, Elizondo was again behind bars and little Sarah was taken into DHS custody.
The family was outraged and they hoped that would be their chance for Sarah to come back to Oklahoma.
However, she is back with her father and still in California. Others have come forward claiming Judge Haralson made questionable rulings for them too.
They joined Sarah’s Oklahoma family outside the judge’s chambers on Wednesday.
Almost immediately after little Sarah Knight boarded the flight to California to live with her father, her family started a petition to get her back.
With the petition in hand, they went straight to Judge Haralson’s chambers.
The petition has 1,500 signatures from all over the world, showing their support to repeal Judge Haralson’s decision and bring little Sarah back to Oklahoma.
Her family has joined forces with two other families who say Haralson got it wrong in their case, as well.
Justin Bennett lost his two kids in a custody battle with his wife, who he says has a borderline personality disorder and has been abusing prescription medicine.
“On three separate times she attempted suicide,” says Bennett. “The last time in the living room with our children present and awake.”
In another case, Velma Everett says Judge Haralson gave custody of her children to her ex-husband, a convicted drug dealer.
“The father Judge Haralson has given custody to is a twice convicted felon cocaine dealer,” says Bart Everett, Velma’s husband. “In recent history, he’s tested positive for marijuana use and one of the children had taken pictures at his house where she’s forced to live with drug paraphernalia.”
Both families are financially out of options to keep fighting in court.
“It’s basically, like, you can’t do anything about it,” says Velma Everett. “Because he’s the ultimate one that makes the decision.”
Wednesday, they joined Sarah Knight’s cousin, Jody Coomer, to silently fight outside of the courtroom.
“Hopefully what we can do is give them a voice,” says Coomer. “And show other people that this has happened, to come and join us. We have a voice. This is just one man. He’s a judge. He puts on his pants one leg at a time like everybody else.”
After seeing and taking care of Sarah every day since she was born, her mother, Lisa Knight, is now restricted to seeing her on a computer screen and talking to her over the phone.
“She looks very sad. She just kind of looks at me like what’s going on,” says Knight. “Why am I here and why are you there? So I have to go and see her as soon as I can.”
Coomer says it’s getting harder to convince her that one day she might get to come home.
She said, “We’re headed to California to see her because she can’t be there and not think that we’re not going to come ever.”
They say they’ve gone from questioning the judge’s decision to now questioning her dad’s ability to be a good father.
“She’s been taken away from him by the DHS out there,” says Coomer. “They had to give her back but why was she taken? She’s never been taken from her mother.”
Those who knew Sarah Knight through extracurricular activities think without those activities, her childhood won’t be much of a childhood.
Sydney Fancher, Sarah’s dance teacher, says, “He’s not allowed to take her to dance classes. That’s the one thing she ever really loved was dancing and playing with her friends and he’s not allowed to do any of that stuff with her.”
Her classmates don’t fully understand why she had to leave.
“All the girls talk about her and ask if she’s coming back, when she’s coming back,” says Fancher. “I wish I could give them a definite answer because that was their dance sister.”
They say with the support of other families who are going through the same thing, they are positive that one day Sarah will be back in Oklahoma.
“We’ll get her back. We’re absolutely confident,” says Coomer. “I don’t care what it takes. We’ll get her back.”
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