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Oklahoma pays $300,000 to settle federal lawsuit against DHS

Misty Lynn Williams spent almost 14 months in Sequoyah County jail in Sallisaw to keep secret her daughter's location. She said she was protecting daughter from being molested.
BY NOLAN CLAY Published: February 13, 2012

The state of Oklahoma has paid $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a mother who hid her young girl after DHS workers rejected her concerns the girl had been molested.

Misty Lynn Williams spent almost 14 months in the Sequoyah County jail in Sallisaw to keep secret her daughter's location.

The unusual case attracted national attention — at first while the mother and girl were missing and then after the mother went to jail for refusing to reveal the girl's whereabouts.

The mother, who grew up in Muldrow, said in a jail interview in 2005 that she was protecting her girl from further sexual abuse. “I would sit here until I die if I have to,” she told The Oklahoman in 2005.

“It was a long time but it was worth it,” Williams, now 33, said in December of her jail stay.

She and her daughter now live together in Van Buren, Ark. Her ex-husband — the girl's father — has given up his parental rights. The girl is now 13.

A federal judge in Oklahoma City on Dec. 21 approved the $300,000 payment from the state on behalf of the Department of Human Services, its employees and former employees and on behalf of retired Associate District Judge A.J. Henshaw.

The settlement was split three ways — $100,000 to the mother, $100,000 to her attorney and $100,000 to a trust for her daughter.

DHS and the retired judge did not admit to any liability in agreeing to settle. Officials decided settling the federal lawsuit would be less costly than continuing to fight it, particularly since a key witness, a retired DHS worker, lost her memory of events after a stroke.

The mother alleged the girl's father and other relatives molested the girl. She alleged doctors in 2002 found the girl, then 4, had genital warts, which is often a sexually transmitted disease.

The father denied molesting the girl. His attorney, Monte Johnson, in 2005 called the sexual abuse allegation “pure fabrication.” The attorney last week declined to comment further.

After her divorce was final in October 2002, the mother fled with the girl. They left because the judge ruled her ex-husband could have overnight visits with the girl.

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Settling DHS lawsuits

In the past three months, the state has paid almost $1 million to settle lawsuits involving the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, records show.

In November, the state paid $600,000 of the $1.1 million settlement that went to a young man who was sexually molested at a foster home. In 2006, the victim — then 15 — was molested by his foster father and the foster father's live-in lover in Oklahoma City. He sued DHS and Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health System, which was hired by DHS to find foster parents.

In December, the state paid $92,500 to settle a lawsuit that blamed DHS for a boy's death. Eli Kevin Johnson, 3, was murdered in 2009 by his mother's boyfriend in Oklahoma City. The boy's father alleged DHS did not do enough to protect Eli after he reported the boy had been abused in 2008.

In January, the state paid $300,000 to settle Misty Lynn Williams' lawsuit against DHS workers and a former judge.


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