Couple sues St. Albans, officers for taking grandson, trauma

By Audrey Holsclaw | Apr 25, 2008

CHARLESTON -- A Kanawha County couple has filed a complaint against the City of St. Albans and two police officers following the seizure of their grandson and subsequent trauma to their family.

On Oct. 8, 2007, police officers David Harris and Scott Lowther came to James and Barbara Abner's home, saying that Kanawha County Magistrate Jack Pauley had instructed them to take their great grandson into custody and turn the boy over to his biological father, Jason Evans. The Abners are the boy's legal guardians and all the boy knows as he has lived with them since he was three months old and is now three years old. The officers had no court order or documentation and took the boy to Danville, Va., where he was placed in Evans' home.

The Abners immediately filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus to try to retrieve their great grandson, but the Danville Police could not honor the writ. On Oct. 12, 2007, Barbara suffered a complete mental break.

On Oct. 13, the St. Albans Police department issued a felony warrant for Evans, and the Danville Police arrested Evans and returned the boy.

Following his removal from the Abner's home, the boy had problems eating and lost five pounds. He also experienced nightmares and developed a stutter. The Abners have sought psychiatric treatment to correct the nightmares and stuttering. They also claim the boy was exposed to drinking, cursing, and smoking.

Filed by Jonathan Matthews and Roger Forman of the Charleston firm Forman & Huber, the Abners claim that the unlawful removal of their great grandson from their home and the pain and suffering caused by the act led to Barbara's breakdown and the psychological problems of their great grandson.

The Abners are also claiming that Lowther and Harris, under the direction of St. Albans and its policies, broke state laws including kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault, battery, conspiracy, accessory, and trespassing. They claim they suffered false arrest, outrage, abuse of process, unlawful seizure, negligence, assault, battery, and bystander distress.

The Abners are seeking a trial by jury to award past, present, and future medical expenses for themselves and their great grandson, punitive damages, attorney fees, and injunctive relief to give Lowther and Harris appropriate training, supervision, and discipline.

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