Jailed Idaho Mom Refuses to Leave Until Kids Returned
An Idaho woman whose arrest last week prompted her children to hole up for five days in their rural home refused Monday to leave jail until she is allowed to see her kids — despite a judge's order to release her issued earlier in the day.
Bonner County Magistrate Barbara Buchanan said she would release JoAnn McGuckin on condition she not violate custodial orders involving six of her children or attempt to contact them without authorization.
McGuckin also demanded that the charges against her be dropped, and that she be offered an apology from county officials, before she would be willing to depart her prison.
Buchanan declined to prohibit McGuckin from returning to the ramshackle home she lost to a county tax sale last September.
But McGuckin's lawyer, Bryce Powell, said McGuckin would not accept the conditions.
"She's angry, is how she is," Powell said after meeting with McGuckin in the jail to discuss the court order.
At the hearing, Powell told the judge that McGuckin wants the charges dropped, child protection proceedings dismissed, and an apology.
"She will not leave the jail at this time subject to these conditions," he said.
County Prosecutor Phil Robinson said his office would neither drop the felony child neglect charges against McGuckin nor apologize to her.
Robinson said he did not object to lowering McGuckin's $100,000 bail and releasing her on her own recognizance if she agrees to the conditions, which included not returning to or occupying her home until she either obtains title or receives a court order.
The current owner has asked authorities to keep McGuckin out, Robinson said.
But Buchanan said she would not sign such an order until the owner starts legal proceedings. The judge noted McGuckin had lived at the home for several years and, "I'm not going to entertain any order to bar her from her home."
A hearing to decide whether the children will continue to be wards of the court, or be returned to their mother, is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning.
The McGuckin children — Kathryn, 16; Benjamin, 15; Mary, 13; James, 11; Frederick, 9; and Jane, 8 — closeted themselves inside their home on Tuesday and sicced their 27 dogs on sheriff's deputies because they feared authorities planned to split up the family. The children agreed to leave the home Saturday and go with state welfare workers.
The peaceful end to the standoff was a relief to people who worried that it could end in violence because the children were believed to have had access to firearms.
The dogs were being rounded up Monday with the help of area animal shelters, sheriff's deputies said. A dispatcher said the Humane Society would care for the dogs and they would not be destroyed.
The children were to remain at an area hospital until at least Tuesday, then they were to be taken to the home of a family friend, said Michelle Britton, regional director for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Tuesday's hearing is to determine where the children will stay for the next 30 days. A decision on where they will live will follow.
The judge could decide to return the children to their mother, retain state custody or send them to live with their mother under regular state scrutiny.
McGuckin has talked to her children by telephone, Robinson said Monday.
The children were reassured by authorities that they would be able to stay together once they came out, and that their dogs would be treated humanely.
McGuckin's husband, Michael, 61, died May 12 after battling multiple sclerosis for several years.
JoAnn McGuckin suffers from a heart condition that made her unable to get out of bed or obtain the help she needed for her family, Powell said.
Powell said he had no evidence indicating McGuckin is mentally ill, as has been suggested by Robinson, nor did he know if she had a problem with alcohol.
Robinson has said she spent the family's meager resources on liquor.
"Unconventional ideas should not be confused with mental illness," Powell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.