The Daily Courier, July 18, 2003
By JERRY STENSLAND Daily Courier Staff Writer
RUTHERFORDTON — A Florida woman who got her stepson returned to her after a March family court hearing, will get to keep the now 7-year-old boy with her.
At a Thursday hearing before Judge Robert S. Cilley, an attempt by a Word of Faith Fellowship member to bring the boy back to Rutherford County was denied.
Kim Worley will return to Florida a happy mother with an even happier stepson.
“I feel wonderful, like a thousand pounds have been lifted from my shoulders,” said Worley. “(My stepson) is ecstatic, he’s so happy.”
The case stems from a custody dispute involving the boy’s uncle Gene Worley and Gene’s estranged wife Denise.
The boy had stayed with Glen and Denise Worley since February 2002 when his father, Harold Keith Worley, began serving a prison sentence for a driving while impaired conviction. Harold signed a written agreement to have his brother Gene take care of his son.
Harold is expected to be released in March of 2004.
In January of 2003, Denise Worley, a member of the Word of Faith Fellowship, took her three children and Harold Worley’s son to stay at a home of other church members.
Gene Worley is currently involved in legal actions to get his three children out of the controversial Spindale church.
Denise Worley was ordered in March to give up the 7-year-old to Harold’s wife Kim. The whereabouts of the biological mother of the boy are not known and she had been gone for most of the boy’s life.
It was Judge Cilley who ordered the boy released to Kim Worley after the boy’s father petitioned to transfer custody to her.
Thursday’s hearing was an attempt by Denise Worley to legally intervene and bring the boy back into the fold of the church with her.
Worley’s legal argument, presented through attorney Garland Byers, was that Denise was not given required notice when the boy was taken away.
Judge Cilley said Thursday, after hearing testimony, that Denise Worley was “not a necessary party or proper party” to this cause, according to Kim Worley’s attorney Peter Lane.
Lane said Cilley ruled that Denise Worley had no “legal standing to intervene.”
The issue of the legal notice was not ruled upon as Worley was deemed an improper party to make such a claim.
“She could not challenge the father’s constitutional right to his child,” said Lane.
After the ruling, the boy was so happy he hugged Lane and later told his stepmother Kim that “I can hold my head up in this town now.”
Kim Worley said her stepson was very worried about what might happen Thursday.
“Mom, I’m freaking out,” Kim said her stepson told her. “What if they get me.”
Kim Worley said it took “about a month to get him straightened out” after the boy was released to her custody in March.
Kim Worley said the whole series of events is surreal.
“It’s like I’m in some kind of weird movie,” she said. She was looking forward to returning her stepson to a normal life.
Friday, Kim Worley may be called to testify in another custody dispute involving the WOFF. Shana Muse, also from Florida, is attempting to get her four children back from the home of WOFF minister Kent Covington and his wife, Brooke.
The case has been brought by the Department of Social Services and will attempt to show that the WOFF is an unsafe environment for children and that Muse’s children should be removed immediately and placed in DSS custody.
The unique legal technique has Muse in the awkward position of rooting for DSS to take the children. The DSS case revolves around declaring Muse an unfit parent at the time she left her children with the Covington’s and subsequently left town to seek deprogramming help after leaving the church herself.
DSS contends that the very act of leaving the children with the WOFF constitutes abuse because of the unhealthy environment the church creates. Attorney Brad Greenway will handle the DSS case with Tom Hix representing the Convingtons.