TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that Kansas child welfare officials will keep custody of the younger children of a woman who took them to sing for the Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers and is accused of abusing them.
A Shawnee County judge cited the children’s descriptions of abuse Wednesday in ruling that Auburn resident Odalis Sharp couldn’t get the younger ones back, The Kansas City Star reported. Sharp has 10 children, but several are over 18. Seven had been temporarily placed in state custody.
Three Sharp children testified that their mother hit them with rods and would say she was trying to “beat the fire” out of them. They said she also yelled and screamed Bible verses during the punishment.
Sharp told the judge she loved her children, adding before the ruling that she was a woman of God and that “the real abuse is to take these children from their home.”
In January, Sharp took seven of her children, who have a family gospel band, to Oregon to sing for and support the 41-day occupation by armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. One daughter, 18-year-old Victoria Sharp, was riding with Nevada rancher LaVoy Finicum and three of the other militants when Finicum was shot and killed by Oregon state police.
At the end of April, five of her children bolted as she climbed in the shower, according to court testimony. Worried about the possibility of a shootout if authorities came to the house, the children stashed family guns at the end of their driveway before going to the Shawnee County sheriff’s office. One of her underage children had already run away.
“We felt it was unsafe,” one of the teenage Sharps said. “We were not sure what would happen in the future.”
The court will consider a request later this summer from the children’s father, who has asked that they be placed in his custody. Meanwhile, Sharp has 30 days to appeal but said after the hearing that she hasn’t decided if she will.
“I think crying wolf, crying abuse, was their way out,” she said, describing the charges as trumped up.
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