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By Carrie K. Hutchens on February 2nd, 2009
Shirley Riggs is accused of unlawfully taking her children and leaving the state triggering an Amber Alert, which is detailed in KCTV5’s “Special Report: Riggs Explains Why She Took Her Kids.”
The report says in part, “On Sept. 20, during an unsupervised visit with her children at her mother’s house, Riggs piled her four children into a van and took off in the middle of the night. They drove to Washington state and spent two weeks in hiding.”
According to the report, Riggs alleges she originally left her husband in 2004 due to abusive behavior and does believe her husband acted inappropriately in the presence of the children. It appears she also believes there was inappropriate behavior between husband and child(ren). Whether this is true or not — the allegations have neither been confirmed nor have they been dismissed as unsubstantiated — why is the father accused and the mother in jail?
KCTV5 reports, “On April 24, 2007, Jackson County Judge Stephen Nixon ordered Shirley Riggs to appear in court in person to discuss her husband’s divorce filing.
“But I was in Oregon. I had no way to get to Missouri,” Riggs said.
Not only didn’t Riggs show up, but her attorney quit that same day, so she had no representation. At that meeting, Nixon ordered the children be placed in the temporary custody of their paternal grandparents.”
It appears that Nixon also continued to allow the husband unsupervised visitation.
What is wrong with this picture?
It is easy for a court to order a person to appear, but it isn’t always reasonable to expect the person to be able to do so, especially when that person is in an entirely different state. Is that what happened here?
Did the judge put Riggs in a no-win situation? Did he tell her, or make it clear, that the hearing was in regard to custody? Did he take into consideration that her attorney quit and she had no representation, before he turned custody of her children over to others and permitted unsupervised visits with someone accused of acting inappropriately with, and around, the children?
KCTV5 further reports, “Despite the sexual misconduct allegations against Raymond Riggs, Nixon continued to allow him unsupervised overnight visits with his kids, which is why Shirley said she took them this summer.
“‘It seemed like all the abuse was being covered up and ignored,’ Riggs said.”
Was it? Is it? Is this still another case of the system not working? Another case where there are little or no “fail-safes” in place to prevent injustice in the name of justice?
“I didn’t really have an exact plan. I just thought someone would listen to me outside the state of Missouri,” Riggs said to KCTV5.
Any action being taken by law enforcement authorities with regards to the allegations against Raymond are unclear. The Independence Police Department did release this statement to KCTV5.
Perhaps Riggs wasn’t right to take the law into her own hands, but she does deserve to be listened to and her concerns earnestly investigated and addressed. The system must perform to the highest degree of standards and be held to even higher standards of accountability. This is, after all, a family at risk of injustice.
This is the case of Shirley Riggs, but more importantly — this is the case of the children she took flight with. May justice be theirs.
Carrie Hutchens is a former law enforcement officer and a freelance writer who is active in fighting against the death culture movement and the injustices within the judicial and law enforcement systems.
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Shirley Riggs Shares Family Pictures – Photos – KCTV Kansas City
JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. — A mother accused of kidnapping her children and sparking an Amber Alert spoke with KCTV5’s Matt Stewart from jail.
Shirley Riggs said she had a good reason for kidnapping her four children. She said she wanted to protect them from her husband, their father, amid allegations of abuse.
Riggs said she feels the justice system was wrong to take her children away from her. "I feel like I did what any other mother would have done," she said.
Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Riggs sat in the Jackson County Jail with a stack of court documents that detail her story. She claims she is misunderstood, that the legal system is against her and that the proof is in those documents.
"I was kind of at the end of my rope, not knowing what to do, where to go, where to find help for my kids," Riggs said.
On Sept. 20, during an unsupervised visit with her children at her mother’s house, Riggs piled her four children into a van and took off in the middle of the night. They drove to Washington state and spent two weeks in hiding.
"I didn’t really have an exact plan. I just thought someone would listen to me outside the state of Missouri," Riggs said.
Independence police issued an Amber Alert and the media splashed their faces on television sets across the nation.
When an employee at a motel in Olympia recognized Riggs’ face, she called police, who arrested Riggs and sent the kids back to Missouri.
"After I was in jail for a couple days, I kind of thought, ‘It’s time to start fighting again,’" Riggs said.
Riggs said she has been fighting for her children for the past four years, beginning in the summer of 2004, when she left her husband, Raymond, claiming he was abusive toward her.
She moved with the kids from Missouri to New Mexico and then to Oregon.
Riggs also alleged that Ray Riggs acted sexually inappropriately around their children. She said three separate therapists who interviewed the children believe it to be true. The children, she said, told the therapists their father watched porn in front of them and walked around naked. Riggs said that’s why she kept taking the kids, to protect them.
"It was quite obvious, not just me to me but also to the therapist, that my children wanted no contact with their father," Riggs said.
Raymond Riggs filed for divorce in November 2006 and shortly after that, a custody battle began. Raymond Riggs declined an interview request, but his attorney spoke on his behalf.
Attorney Philip Zuspan said, "A lot of what Shirley Riggs has alleged is not true."
Zuspan said Raymond has always complied with investigators and has never been charged with any sex crimes against his children. He said Raymond Riggs loves his kids and wants to be a part of their lives.
"It is consuming to him. Every waking moment for the last couple of years, the thing on Raymond Riggs’ mind is getting his children back," Zuspan said.
On April 24, 2007, Jackson County Judge Stephen Nixon ordered Shirley Riggs to appear in court in person to discuss her husband’s divorce filing.
"But I was in Oregon. I had no way to get to Missouri," Riggs said.
Not only didn’t Riggs show up, but her attorney quit that same day, so she had no representation. At that meeting, Nixon ordered the children be placed in the temporary custody of their paternal grandparents.
"There was no notice that custody was going to be discussed that day," Riggs said.
KCTV5 News reporter Matt Stewart had retired Johnson County Judge Larry McClain look over the paperwork in the case. Judge McClain presided over domestic law cases for 19 years.
"It seemed like kind of a drastic measure to me," McClain said.
While McClain did not say Nixon made the wrong decision, he did admit he would have handled it differently.
"Perhaps if I were in his shoes, I would have sent her a notice that I’m rescheduling that case management order, and she had 30 days to contact the court and if she did not do so, custody would be changed," McClain said.
When Stewart asked Nixon why he gave away custody that day, an aide from his office wrote, "Judge Nixon cannot comply with your request because to do so would clearly violate his obligation not to discuss any pending case."
Despite the sexual misconduct allegations against Raymond Riggs, Nixon continued to allow him unsupervised overnight visits with his kids, which is why Shirley said she took them this summer.
"It seemed like all the abuse was being covered up and ignored," Riggs said.
As Riggs awaits her February trial, she said she knows she may never see her children again, but she remains hopeful she will one day regain custody of them.
"I know they need me. They need me now, they’ll need me when this is over," Riggs said.
Riggs’ children are currently in foster care.
Riggs and her kids are part Cherokee Indian. The Cherokee Nation is in the process of trying to get involved in the case to see if they can reunite Riggs and her kids through federal law.
Independence police told KCTV5 News they are no longer investigating Raymond Riggs. They released a statement Monday saying they have closed the case.
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