The Digital Courier, Dec. 19, 2002
By JEAN GORDON Daily Courier Staff Writer
SPINDALE — Shana Muse’s oldest daughter, Sarah, 15, said Wednesday afternoon that she and her sister and brothers will do anything they have to do to stay with Kent and Brooke Covington.
“They are the best things that has ever happened to us,” Sarah said.
Sarah, her sister, Rachael, 14, and two brothers, Vincent, 9, and Justin, 8, sat in an office at the Word of Faith Fellowship Wednesday and told their side of the controversial story that erupted at the WOFF several months ago.
As the children talked, Muse was holding a press conference on the courthouse lawn to discuss her side of the custody battle.
The children have been living with the Covingtons for three months.
Muse left the church in September but was not allowed to take the children with her. She later, using custody papers from the State of Florida, got Sheriff’s deputies to escort her to get the children from the church. The children were found at the Covington’s residence on Hunting Drive.
Muse took the children and left. But two days later she returned to the church and signed an agreement giving the Covingtons control of the children.
Muse later left the church and sought help at an Ohio mental health facility that helps former cult members. Last week, she returned to Rutherford County to get her children.
All four children spoke during the hour-long discussion that took place in the presence of the Covingtons and church member Jayne Caulder who runs the church school.
The children were told they could discuss anything they wanted and also had the option to refuse to answer any questions. They chose to answer all questions.
“Mom has told her story and no one has seen our side and what all we’ve gone through … the abuse, the hell and the torment,” Sarah began.
“When we first got here our lives were a mess … the boys had been abused. This is a better way of living,” she said of their arrival at the WOFF two-and-a-half years ago.
Sarah said their mother had been on drugs and had never taken responsibility for them.
She said her mother never fed them, never clothed them and didn’t take care of their physical needs.
“When we first came here we had one pair of shorts and two shirts,” Vincent said.
Sarah said she was responsible for helping take care of her brothers and sister even when she was 11-year-old, because of the irresponsibility of their mother.
Vincent said his mother beat him often.
“Whatever she had in her hand, she would hit me with it,” he said.
Sarah said their mother often told them that she hated them and didn’t want them.
“She told us she didn’t love us,” Sarah said.
Vincent and Justin were at home with Kent Covington last Thursday night when Muse came to the house and asked that they go with her on a vacation.
Vincent said he was afraid to go with her.
“I knew if she took us, she wouldn’t bring us back. We didn’t want to go with her … I was afraid,” he said.
Brooke said both boys had trouble sleeping the first few nights after Muse’s visit and that Justin still has not been able to eat.
“He says he is not worried, ‘just my stomach,’” Brooke said.
Sarah and Rachael were not at the house when Muse arrived there last week but were notified immediately.
“I didn’t want to go with her … I wanted to talk to her on the telephone. I wanted to tell her the whole situation and how we really felt … and that we didn’t want to go back with her,” Sarah said.
But Sarah didn’t talk with her mother on the telephone that night, because Sarah said she did not want to discuss the situation as long as her mother’s deprogrammer was present.
Sarah said her mother wouldn’t talk with her as long as her Aunt Suzanne was in Sarah’s presence.
Two of Shana’s two sisters, Suzanne Cooper and Cindy Cordes, and their children are members of the church. Suzanne said that for years they have interceded on behalf of their nieces and nephews.
Cooper said when Shana’s drug use and abuse of the children got bad, the entire family had to rally around and take care of the children. They said this isn’t the first time they have cared for the children.
Sarah said her mother told Cooper on Tuesday that she would go to whatever television station and whatever newspaper paid her the most money for her story and she would tell it.
“This isn’t about money. It’s about our lives,” Sarah said.
When asked if they could hear anything from the Covingtons on Thursday morning when they were awakened, what would it be, Vincent spoke out first.
“That Brooke and Kent could adopt us,” Vincent said.
“And that this situation is over and that our mother will not bother us,” Sarah said.
“But don’t you miss your mother?” the children were asked.
“No,” Vincent answered first and the others echoed his remarks.
“Because she abused us,” Vincent said.
And Sarah added because of the drug use and her not caring for them.
Sarah said when she learned that a local minister had begun a fund to raise money to help her mother get the children back, it was hard to understand.
“I don’t understand. Why would a minister ask someone to help a mother who has abused her children, to get them back? … When none of us want to go with her. I don’t understand that,” she said.
All four children said the church had helped them since they came there and they loved the church.
“They have done nothing but help us. People are always there to help. Our mom has said so many lies about the church. They are not true,” Sarah said.