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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aaron's Law at work: Taking the 5th 142 times

By Sean Aaron Cruz

October 24, 2012

Portland, Oregon

The disappearance of 8-year old Kyron Horman more than two years ago triggered the largest search effort in Oregon history. No criminal charges have been filed in the case, and police have released an age-progressed image of what they think Kyron might look like today.

Last seen in the company of his step mom, Terri Horman, the multiple searches turned up no trace of the child. Law enforcement has named no suspects or persons of interest, officially, although those terms most certainly describe Kyron’s step mom and her close friend DeDe Spicher, unofficially.

Both women have stubbornly refused to account for their whereabouts during the crucial two hours on the morning of June 4, 2010, when Kyron vanished from the face of the earth, as did these two women, albeit temporarily in their cases.

Earlier this year, with both the criminal and family law courts at a stand still, unable to move forward, Kyron’s mother Desiree Young filed a civil suit against Terri Horman, alleging that the step mom knows where Kyron is and whether he is dead or alive.

As reported in The Oregonian yesterday, DeDe Spicher invoked the 5th Amendment 142 times during a recent deposition.

Spicher declined to answer any questions posed by Young's lawyers on Oct. 5 that involved Terri Horman, Kyron's stepmom, or Kyron -- each time asserting her Fifth Amendment constitutional right not to incriminate herself. 

Spicher also declined to answer questions about where she was on June 4, 2010. 

"Are you aware that Kyron Horman has disappeared?" asked Young's lawyer, Elden Rosenthal. 

"I'm asserting my Fifth Amendment right," Spicher replied, according to a transcript filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court. 

Spicher even declined to identify a photo of Terri Horman, or whether she knew Terri Horman's husband, Kaine Horman, Young, or had ever met Kyron. 

This civil suit is authorized by Senate Bill 1041 (2005), known as “Aaron’s Law” for my late son Aaron Cruz, who died earlier that year as a consequence of his abduction from Oregon in 1996.

With the passage of Aaron’s Law, Oregon became the first state in the nation where child abduction creates a civil cause of action, providing family members with new tools when law enforcement and the courts fail to act, and yet there is a child missing.

The civil suit filed by Kyron’s family is the first under Aaron’s Law, and thus first in the nation. “There is no other case like this,” the judge hearing the suit said, and as this process moves forward, there will be many places where precedent will be established and challenged.

Already there is the question of whether a person (Spicher) can take the 5th in civil court to shield another person (Terri Horman) when neither has been charged with a crime or has been named by law enforcement as a suspect or person of interest.

Aaron’s Law is triggered when a person violates Oregon’s Custodial Interference I statute by knowingly and wilfully “tak(ing), entic(ing) or keep(ing) a (child) from the (child’s) lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order.”

A violation of Custodial Interference I is a Class B felony, good for up to five years in prison, but the statute is rarely enforced.

Historically, there is a high degree of certitude that a parent or family member who abducts their own child will suffer few consequences, and those only after court processes that stretch out for years and drain every economic resource and emotional reservoir available to the family.

Aaron’s Law is designed to change these circumstances.

My own four children disappeared into Utah in an abduction organized by Mormon officials in three states, and despite an order for joint custody that had kept their lives orderly and secure for five years prior to their abduction.

Aaron’s Law is designed to reach anyone, any person or organization, who provides logistical, planning, financial or any other support to the abduction of an Oregon child, through a civil process.

The civil suit empowers Kyron’s mother to depose witnesses, and DeDe Spicher, who is not a family member, unrelated to Kyron Horman in any way, connected only through Terri Horman, is about to become a very public example of the power of Aaron’s Law.

This is how Aaron’s Law will eventually have a deterrent effect.

I hope that the principles of Aaron’s Law will be enacted in every state, protecting every child in the nation. Abducted children are very nearly always taken out of their home state, and international abductions have been trending upwards for years.

If you participate in the abduction of an Oregon child, be prepared to squirm and reach for that Fifth Amendment. Think about whether it is worth it before you act.

Aaron's Law is waiting for you now.


Sean Aaron Cruz, serving as Oregon State Senator Avel Louise Gordly’s chief of staff, led her 2005 workgroup on parental and family abductions, which culminated in the passage of Senate Bill 1041 on a dramatic unanimous vote in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signs SB 1041 “Aaron’s Law”


Kristine said...

I've been following this case since day 1 of Kyron's disappearance. Sadly, pleading the 5th makes this all for naught and this is wrong.

Anonymous said...

so I'm confused, DeDe is getting away with pleading the 5th, what gives? Can she or are they suppose to prosecute and just won't. If they won't, then what good does that do?

Sean Aaron Cruz said...

Thank you for your comments. We are all going to learn the answer to these questions as the process moves forward.

And there will be many more questions. We are breaking new legal ground,

I do want to say one additional thing: Even the civil process takes forever. If it is your child that is missing, every minute seems like hours, and the courts are not open on weekends or evenings or holidays, all free days to the people who are holding your child(ren).

WhitneyJWyatt said...

Thank you for writing this article. Really opens my eyes to the capabilities of someone who has something to hide. I hope that something changes as far as speeding the process up.

Anonymous said...

So if I am reading this correctly by DeDe taking the 5th 142 times she is, in effect, admitting some sort of role in Kyron's disappearance and by doing so Aaron's law will lead to her prosecution. I would imagine that if she finds herself facing any length of jail time she will sing like a canary and Terri will be left holding the bag.

Anonymous said...

That's what I've been thinking. The fifth amendment right keeps people from having to tell on themselves. If Dede has done nothing wrong, then there would be no basis for her to use the fifth amendment and so she would not be able to use this right. Just by using this right, Dede is admitted to knowingly taking part in Kyron's disapearance. Lock her up!

Anonymous said...

My understanding on her avoidance of those questions was during a depo with Young's lawyer, not in the courtroom, and based on coverage I heard yesterday on it, it will be brought up in the trial in front of the judge and she will be pressed to answer.

I am always glad to see Oregon leading the way with legislation such as Aaron's Law.

Anonymous said...

Love to you and your sweet boy as well as to all the missing kids and families left in the wake.
Thank you for Aaron's law.
It shouldn't have to exist, but it does thanks to you. The loss of Aaron was not in vain because you love him and these other lost children enough to fight for them.