FAIRVIEW — An adopted Liberian girl was tied to chairs and bedposts and denied meals as punishment.
At age 11, she was made to sleep outside in the cold for stealing a cookie from the kitchen. She was sexually molested by an older adoptive brother.
These accusations are waged against a Fairview family facing criminal charges in Major County District Court.
Andee Verlon Tyler, 51, and his wife, Penny Tyler, 46, face felony child abuse charges. Their son, Ashton Malachi Tyler, 20, is charged with rape by instrumentation.
Their daughter, Nathania Dellare Tyler, 21, is charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
An officer with an area NAACP chapter claims that the girl, now 13, and her four Liberian-born sisters, ranging in age from 5 to 15, are victims of an international child slavery scam.
Calls to the Tylers’ attorney, Norman Lamb of Enid, were not returned.
The 13-year-old is living out of state with a relative of the Tylers.
Her four sisters remain with the Tylers.
The criminal cases have been lingering in the court system since October, along with a deprived juvenile case in family court involving all the girls.
Assistant District Attorney Tim Haworth said the defendants are undergoing psychological evaluations to determine whether they are capable of reoffending.
"It will go to trial with a jury, or they will blind plea with a judge,” Haworth said. "We’re not dealing on this one.”
From Liberia to Fairview
The five sisters were adopted in 2005 from a Liberian orphanage operated by the West African Children Support Network.
The children’s father, James Andrew, took them to the orphanage after their mother died giving birth to the youngest, said Linda Rous, a member of a local grassroots group spearheading an effort to help the girls.
It was his hope that his daughters would be adopted by a family in the United States, where they would have opportunities that didn’t exist for them in impoverished Liberia. He specifically asked that they not be separated and that he be allowed to communicate with them regularly, Rous said.
The U.S. State Department in January reported the West African Children Support Network, founded by Liberian-born Maria Luyken of Eden Prairie, Minn., was ordered by the Liberian government to suspend operations. The Liberian government is investigating whether the organization is properly caring for children.
Melvin Johnson, a Liberian-born attorney from Atlanta, has agreed to represent the children in the deprived juvenile case. He was recruited by a Liberian-American friend who knew of the situation.
Johnson was in Fairview two weeks ago asking a judge to assign him as the children’s advocate and requesting court records. He said his primary objective is to move the girls out of the Tyler home.
Johnson said he recently spoke with the girls’ father, and Andrew had no idea of the problems the girls are having. He was even more troubled to hear his four daughters are separated from their 13-year-old sister.
Calls to the child welfare division of the state Department of Human Services were not returned.
Monitoring the case
The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth has been monitoring DHS’ handling of the case for several months but their findings are confidential, said commission director Lisa Smith.