A Range of Harsh Lessons

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

"There didn't seem to be an issue of neglect or lack of care," she says. "I didn't pick up any signs of abuse."

On the evening of November 4, 2000, the police came for the three Veasey girls.


Because there is a gag order on the social-services case, and because the juvenile court case has been ordered "closed" by the judge, the principals -- including Diane Veasey, her attorneys, the Elbert County Department of Social Services and the sheriff's department -- cannot comment on what has occurred, supervisors said. Joann Musell, the court-appointed volunteer working with the nonprofit Advocates for Children in Aurora, cannot comment. (Musell was assigned to make recommendations on November 8.) And although some of the Veaseys' supporters have questioned Musell's credentials, Peggy Rudden, executive director of Advocates for Children, has declined to give specifics, citing safety concerns and "invasion of privacy" issues.

Still, the gag order does not apply to others. Family friend and political gadfly Sam Riddle -- who became involved after being asked to do so by one of Diane's relatives who knew him from Michigan -- has made it his "job" to inform the media about every aspect of the case. And Krystal Veasey Collins and her sister Carmen Veasey Wilson feel able to speak for the record as well.

For Krystal, the news that something was up came November 2 via a phone call from her sister-in-law Sheila White, Ronald's wife.

According to Krystal, she was told that her twelve-year-old sister had spoken by phone with another sibling a few days earlier and that the twelve-year-old had said that one of her brothers had touched her breast. When word of that conversation reached Ronald and Sheila, they decided to act, Krystal says. "Sheila called me and told me they [Sheila and Ronald] were going to come for my little sister because she was saying someone was bothering her," Krystal relates.

"And I said to Sheila, 'I'm going to tell Mama.' And she said, 'No.' I asked her, 'How can Mama do something if she doesn't know?'"

Krystal decided to investigate the matter herself and drove from Cheyenne to Kiowa to speak with her young sister.

"I talked to [the twelve-year-old]," Krystal says. "I took her downstairs and I sat down and talked to her for a while. She told me of one person. She said he touched her breast when they were playing." When questioned, the girl implicated a second brother. Krystal says she expressed to the girl the importance of speaking about what had happened. Krystal then accompanied her sister upstairs, and the two of them spoke with Diane.

"She told my mother the same thing," Krystal says. "Then, after that, my mother went to talk to my father, and they brought up the [brothers] she said did this."

The boys denied touching their sister inappropriately, but just to be sure, Diane had the girl sleep with her in her room that night.

Krystal left the following day, believing that her parents would deal with the situation as they saw fit.

The Veaseys didn't have time to deal with it, though. On the evening of November 4, several sheriff's deputies pulled up to the Veasey home and demanded that all three girls -- the twelve-year-old and her two younger sisters, ages six and seven -- go with them.

"The sheriff sends a number of cars out here, literally using Gestapo-type tactics," Riddle says. "They came in, warrantless, and took the girls. They told Diane that her son [Ronald] had come in and said her daughter had been sexually assaulted.

"The girls were crying and didn't want to leave. Diane said the police did not give her any documents."

Unbeknownst to Diane, Ronald and Sheila were in Colorado at the time the girls were taken, says Riddle.

According to Riddle, the deputies left the Veasey home that night and took the girls to Castle Rock, where Ronald and Sheila were waiting. The girls stayed there with their brother for about a week while social workers initiated an investigation. All three girls were interviewed, and the alleged victim was examined at a hospital.

Then, at a hearing the following week, an Elbert County judge granted temporary custody of the three girls to Ronald and allowed him to take them home with him to Indiana.

Diane and her attorney fought the ruling and sought to have the girls returned to Colorado.

"The judge said if Mama took the boys out of the house, she could have the girls back," Krystal explains. So Diane sent the boys to live with Krystal in Cheyenne for what she hoped would be a short stay.

"But they didn't let the girls come home," Krystal says.

Instead of being returned to the Veaseys, the girls were brought back to Colorado and placed in a foster home.

The boys remained with Krystal through November, but they continued their schooling -- Jeffries sent work up to them, and the boys sent back completed papers. When it became clear that the girls wouldn't be coming back anytime soon, they went back to Kiowa.

Around Christmastime, Diane decided to send the boys to stay with her daughter Carmen in Arkansas. This time, Stephen and Brandon remained at home with her.

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