Children in Idaho surrender
SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) – Five children who surrendered after a five-day impasse with sheriff’s deputies at their isolated home will stay with a family friend until a judge decides what will next happen to the siblings, authorities said Sunday.
The children had holed up in the house Tuesday after their mother was arrested on a felony child neglect charge. Sheriff’s deputies waited them out until Saturday because they were believed to be armed and suspicious of authorities.
”We’re all elated that everything turned out well,” Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson said. ”Everyone used a lot of restraint, kept calm, kept cool.”
The children were hospitalized Saturday. The siblings, as well as a 15-year-old brother who surrendered on Thursday, will be taken to the home of a family friend when they are released from the hospital, said Michelle Britton, regional director for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
”All the children are together,” Britton said. She said the children were in ”fairly OK” condition but could not say when they might be discharged.
A hearing was expected on Monday or Tuesday to determine where the children will stay for the next 30 days, Robinson said. A decision on where they will live after that will come later.
Health and Welfare spokesman Bill Walker said agency caseworkers will ask a judge to decide if the state will retain custody of the children, ages 8 to 16. The judge could decide to return the children to their mother, retain state custody, or send them to live with their mother under regular state scrutiny.
An attorney for the mother, JoAnn McGuckin, said she has not yet been able to see the children.
”She’s very relieved that they’re safe, and she can’t wait to give them a big hug,” attorney Bryce Powell said.
The children agreed to give up after negotiators promised to try to help them stay together. Bonner County Sheriff Phil Jarvis said Saturday night the children will remain together ”if I have anything to say about it.”
Negotiators got a break on Thursday when the children talked briefly with two family friends through a wall in the house. JoAnn McGuckin sent two messages to her children – with phrases they would recognize – indicating she was safe and they should cooperate.
Powell said one message came from their Winnie the Pooh book: ”Tell them that their mother says they are a whoop-ti-do per bounce.”
It was family information they would recognize as coming from their mother, Powell said.
On Saturday two officers were sent to the house to talk with the children. Also involved in the talks was the children’s older sister, Erina, 19, who had left the house some time ago after a fight with her mother.
Jarvis said the talks on Saturday morning turned very positive, led by Kathryn, the oldest child in the house.
”She wasn’t the least bit hostile and indicated that she knew we were trying to help them,” Jarvis said.
The family had become increasingly reclusive and had money problems because of their father’s multiple sclerosis. His death May 12 was attributed to dehydration and malnutrition, complicated by his illness.
Residents said the family was suspicious of the government and had refused help from neighbors concerned about their living conditions. The family was said to often lack food, heat, electricity and telephone service. The children were home-schooled.
Authorities must still deal with 27 semi-wild dogs still roaming the family’s former home. Authorities have not yet decided what to do with the dogs, who continue to roam the land around the rural one-story family home near the lakeside community of Garfield Bay.
Humane society chapters in the area have offered to help.
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