WEDNESDAY JANUARY 24, 2007 Last modified: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 11:09 AM CST
State takes custody of children at funeral
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)- The funeral of a McLoud boy who died after falling from the hood of a car was disrupted by a near brawl when authorities moved in to take custody of his brother and sister, relatives and friends said.
Brandon Skalicky, 6, was crushed Jan. 2 under a car driven by his sister, Emily Smith, 12. His brother, Joshua Skalicky, 7, also was riding on the hood but fell to safety.
After Brandon's death, Pottawatomie County Associate District Judge John Gardner signed an order to temporarily place the siblings in state custody and remove them from the home of their mother, Roxanne Smith, 28, of McLoud.
Rusty Cousins of Harrah, the grandfather of the boy who died, said he and other family members at the funeral at Bethesda Assembly of God in Oklahoma City thought a McLoud police officer and as many as nine Oklahoma City police officers were there to serve as escorts to the burial.
Cousins said a commotion started near the end of the service, when an officer tried to get Emily Smith to leave with him.
Family friend Nancy McDaniel of Oklahoma City said the girl was crying, kicking and screaming to get away from the officer. McDaniel said male family members tried to intervene and other officers got involved.
"It was bad timing to try to take the children at the funeral," McDaniel said. "They could have shown more compassion for the situation."
Tracy Pelfrey of Del City also witnessed the incident.
"Emily was screaming and yelling,'I want my momma, I want my momma,'" Pelfrey said. "It was just awful."
Cousins said officers didn't draw their guns but their hands were readied on their holsters. He said people were screaming insults at the officers and he feared a punch would be thrown.
"I just prayed that no one would get shot," Cousins said.
The children eventually were wrangled to a car's back seat and taken into state custody. They did not have an opportunity to attend their brother's burial, Cousins said.
George Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, said social workers do not decide where, when or how to pick children up. He said that duty is executed by law enforcement officers.
Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon said social services officials asked him to send officers to the funeral and he declined.
McLoud Police Chief Gary Row said the duty to pick up Emily Smith and Joshua Skalicky rested on his department's shoulders.
"The children's safety was foremost on our minds," Row said. "We felt we had no other option."
He said an officer telephoned family members to ask them to turn over the children. When the officer was unable to make contact, police were sent to the funeral, knowing the children would be there, he said.
Richard Sherman said his niece and nephew were not being hidden from authorities. Both had been staying with him and his wife in Harrah since Brandon's death, he said.
A judge will ultimately decide whether the children will be returned to their mother, allowed to live with family members or placed in foster care.
Police said Smith and her husband were home when the children were joyriding in a mobile home park where the family lives.
Police said Emily was being taught to drive by her passenger, Heidi Canaday, 17, of McLoud, when the boy fell off the hood.
Smothermon said he is awaiting the results of the accident investigation by state troopers to determine whether to file charges.