Friday, November 27, 2009

Former custodial dad won't regain custody of 4 daughters (Las Cruces, New Mexico)

Former custodial dad DR. KENNETH YAW (along with the stepmother) have been denied an attempt to regain custody of Dad's four daughters. Dad and the stepmom "allegedly" abused the girls for months by denying food, water, and contact with the outside world. Wonder what happened to the girls' mom....

Judge denies doctor's custody attempt in abuse case
By Ashley Meeks Sun-News reporter
Posted: 11/27/2009 12:00:00 AM MST

LAS CRUCES -- A U.S. District Court judge in Buffalo, N.Y., last week denied an attempt by Kenneth Yaw and Rita Starceski to regain custody of the four girls they are alleged to have abused for months in Las Cruces, according to federal court documents.

Attorneys for Yaw and Starceski filed suit in federal court in May, seeking nullification of state court rulings in New York and New Mexico and alleging a conflict between those rulings. Judge Richard J. Arcara denied that motion, citing Supreme Court principle that federal courts not involve themselves in family court matters.

"For more than one hundred years federal courts have consistently refused to resolve domestic relations disputes," the ruling reads.

More than a year after their grand jury indictment in Doña Ana County, the couple still await trial here before District Court Judge Lisa Schultz on charges they punished the children by locking them in a garage and trailer.

Yaw, 56, an orthopedic surgeon who previously practiced in Pittsburgh, and his 44-year-old wife, Starceski, were charged with six counts of third-degree intentional child abuse not resulting in great bodily harm or death. If convicted, each could face a maximum 18 years in jail.

Though they are court-ordered to avoid contact with the girls, the two remain the sole legal custodians of the children, now living on a dairy farm with a foster family in New York and excelling academically and in extracurricular activities in public school,according to online school newsletters.

Since being moved to New York, however, relatives have tried to "move and hide or intimidate" the girls to keep them from testifying in court and to send "a strong message to the children that they were still under the domination of their abusive parents," according to paperwork filed this month by a state-appointed attorney representing the children.

Yaw and Starceski "love their children very much and are striving to reunite their family," one of their New York attorneys told the Buffalo News last week after the federal court verdict.

After moving to Las Cruces in 2007 from Pittsburgh, Yaw is alleged to have punished the two younger girls, then 11 and 13, and the older twins, then 15, by locking them in the garage of their $600,000 Sonoma Ranch home for days at a time with only a sleeping bag, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, according to Las Cruces police.

Meted out for infractions including not having the family dog on a leash, not doing homework and taking two books from the family bookshelf to the bedroom, according to the Buffalo News -- the alleged abuse took place with their step-mother's knowledge, resulting in her charges.

From June to August, 2008, police say Yaw rented a ramshackle unfurnished mobile home on Karen Avenue and drove three of the girls there in the middle of the night, to live with little food or water and no approved contact with anyone but their father.

The alleged abuse came to light when Yaw got into a fight with a neighbor at the trailer park. Several days after the trailer park fight, Yaw and Starceski were arrested and booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center but were released the same day after posting bond of $70,000 each.

The couple's lawyer in Las Cruces, Michael Stout, said last year he was confident the couple would be exonerated, telling the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, where the family lived prior to moving to Las Cruces in 2007, that "all is not as it seems."