A Range of Harsh Lessons

Schoolyard slurs, an incest charge and county social services shatter a black family's Kiowa dream.

Diane Veaseys dream rested on a windswept, 36-acre piece of land with a view of Pikes Peak. She calls it her ranch, though only someone who was raised in the confines of a city would think to describe it in those terms.

She and her husband, Earl, moved to the ranch two years ago, along with eleven of their brood of 22 children. Earl, a Baptist minister, had recently retired and planned to fix up the old house that was on the property, perhaps even build another, nicer one just up the hill. They hoped to get some horses for the kids.

They didnt want their children growing up on the rough streets of Flint, Michigan.


Looking back on it now, the dream seems like a cruel joke.

Friends say that maybe it comes down to racism; maybe not. But the fact is that when the Veaseys moved to Kiowa, there were fewer than 120 other blacks in sparsely populated Elbert County.

Two and a half months into the 1999-2000 school year, Diane pulled her kids out of the local school after theyd been subjected to taunts, racial slurs and death threats. She found a former Denver Public Schools teacher to educate her children and set them up in a makeshift classroom on the first floor of the Veasey home.

Things quickly went from bad to worse. In April last year, Earl was paralyzed in an automobile accident near their home; the Veaseys filed suit against the county, claiming that poorly maintained roads were to blame for the crash.

Diane now believes that the suit, which is still pending, might have biased county officials against the family and set the stage for what happened next.

In early November, based on a tip that one of the girls might have been sexually molested by one or more brothers, Elbert County deputies swooped in and removed all three girls from the household and placed them in foster homes. Accusations of abuse and neglect were eventually heaped onto the allegations of incest. In January, the sheriff came for the boys, too. The county department of social services even removed the Veaseys 23-year-old handicapped son and placed him in a special-care facility in Sterling.

The following month, based on the observations of a court-appointed special advocate, the Veaseys were ordered to have no contact with their daughters, even though Diane and her husband had never been charged with abuse. (The advocate, a volunteer, was to assist social services and make recommendations.)

The Veaseys had prepared themselves for a fight from the beginning, but the battle to regain their children took a greater emotional and physical toll than they could have foreseen. Earl died of a heart attack this past March, less than two weeks from his 51st birthday.

Only one of the children was permitted to attend his funeral.

Now, nearly six months after the first allegations arose, only four of the Veasey children have been allowed to return home, three of them in the past two weeks. Two of the teenage boys are living at the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in Arapahoe County while they await trial on charges that they molested their twelve-year-old sister. That girl has not yet been allowed to come home. Three of her brothers, including the 23-year-old, remain in others' care, with no date set for their return. Another, age eighteen, has moved out.

The sexual-assault case appears to be crumbling. Reportedly, at least one of the accusers and the alleged victim herself are no longer cooperating with authorities, and the 18th District deputy district attorney has asked that some of the charges against the Veasey boys be dropped.

And as county officials shield themselves behind a gag order surrounding the case, the matter appears to have come down to this: The remainder of Diane Veasey's children will not be allowed to come home unless she agrees to send them back to public school -- the same place she took them from because she believed their lives were in danger.

For Diane, one of the hardest things she's had to face is that the disaster sprang from within her own family. She claims the sexual-abuse allegations that got the entire case rolling were made up by her oldest son, age 32, who contacted the sheriff's office after his parents refused to loan him $30,000.

This isn't the first time this son has made such allegations, she says. It is, however, the first time anyone believed him.

Diane, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, was divorced and the mother of three before she turned twenty, but she was determined to better herself and make a life for her children. She began taking classes at night, hoping to nab a clerical job.

She was finishing up those courses and working at the Coachman's Inn in Little Rock, when she met fellow employee Earl Veasey. She hadn't planned to jump right into a second marriage, Diane says, but Earl was a charmer.

They married in 1971, and Earl took Diane's three children -- Ronald, Niki and Yvonne -- as his own.

The two of them never really discussed how many kids they wanted to have, Diane says. They both came from large families -- she was one of eight children, he one of eleven -- and having lots of children underfoot seemed natural. As for birth control, Diane figured God could call a halt to the procreation "anytime He got ready."

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