Father challenges family law judge's temporary order

By Lawrence Smith | Apr 15, 2013

CHARLESTON – Despite evidence to the contrary, a Charleston man alleges a Kanawha Family Law judge erred in removing his daughter from his custody.

Judge D. Mark Snyder is named as a respondent in a writ of prohibition filed by Travis Truman in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his writ filed April 1, Truman, 39, says Snyder lacked grounds to grant guardianship of his daughter to her maternal grandparents.

According to his petition, Truman states Freda and Richard Turner petitioned Snyder for guardianship of his daughter, who is not identified in court records. Though the date of the Turners’ petition for guardianship is not specified, Truman says it came soon after his wife, Julia, began serving her sentence for her conviction for mail fraud.

According to court records, Julia Truman on Feb. 29, 2012, was indicted via information on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The indictment alleges she engaged in a conspiracy with Deborah Farmer, a claims adjuster with American Electric Power, and eight others to falsely bill the company for power surge claims between February 2009 and March 2010.

According to the indictment, Julia Truman, with Farmer’s assistance, was able to receive $$44,954.32.from three claims she filed. With Farmer’s encouragement, Truman formed Tri-State Service Solutions, Inc. as a front to conduct bogus appraisals, the indictment says.

After forming TSSS in Sept. 4, 2009, the indictment alleges Julia Truman submitted 15 additional fraudulent property damage claims in which she cleared $21,021. Along with co-conspirators Freda Bradshaw, Karen Hodges, Jonathan Shaffer, Tiffany Shaffer, Bryan Javins, Janette Boggs, and Crystal and Mark Ingram, Farmer and Julia Truman submitted a total of 57 false claims to AEP totaling $598,545, the indictment says.

On Sept. 17, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver sentenced Julia Truman to two years in prison and three years supervised release. Also, he ordered all 10, jointly and severally liable to make restitution to AEP for $558,412.36

Currently, Julia Truman is incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Alderson and scheduled for release on Aug. 5, 2014.

In his petition, Travis Truman says both the guardian ad litem, Woody Hill, and his daughter’s therapist testified that he is in no way an unfit parent. However, Snyder on an unspecified day overruled motions he made to have the Turner’s guardianship petition dismissed.

Instead, he says Snyder determined it was in his daughter’s best interest to begin a transition period in which the Turners would take temporary custody of her until “the transition could be completed sometime in the fall of 2013.”

Also, at the same hearing, Truman said instead of issuing a final order which he could appeal, Snyder issued a 60-day temporary order.

As a result of the temporary order, there are a lack of cooperation with the Turners and “potential parental alienation,” Truman said. His only recourse to challenge Snyder’s ruling is through the writ, he said.

“It is unknown how many more hearings must he held or what evidence [he] has to present in order to regain custody of his child,” Truman’s attorney Alan Pritt said.

“Also there is no adequate remedy to allow [Truman] to regain the lost time with his children and deprives a fit parent of his child.”

In addition to granting his writ, Truman seeks an order prohibiting the Turners from having any further contact with his daughter and recovery of attorneys fees. The case is assigned to Judge Charles E. King, Jr.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case numbers 13-P-181 (Snyder writ of prohibition) and 12-FIG-218 (Turner infant guardianship)

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