Missing teens found hiding out with mom; custody battle continues
04/25/2016 3:53 pm PDT
These two sisters say they were so terrified of their father that they ran away from home. Now nearly two years later they find themselves in the middle of a messy legal tug of war that includes accusations of kidnapping and alleged child abuse. We're teaming up with our affiliate KSTU for the latest on the Wolferts sisters.
"Our dad is abusive and terrifying at times," said Sydney, one of the sisters, on a Youtube video.
Powerful accusations from a 15-year-old girl, especially when she's talking about her own father.
"He's constantly lying and people believe his lies," Sydney says.
Sydney Wolferts and her 13-year-old sister Danielle were on the run and hiding out with their mom when they posted Youtube videos claiming emotional abuse by their dad, Brian Wolferts.
"Our dad has so much hate for our mom and he's got other people to hate her too."
Brian Wolferts says none of it is true.
"We went hiking as a family, we did family trips," said Brian.
Brian Wolferts spoke by phone with affiliate KSTU in Salt Lake City, Utah. He says his ex-wife, Michelle Wolferts, brainwashed his daughters and convinced them to make false accusations after he moved with the girls from Utah to Topeka, Kansas.
"It's a simple form of manipulation," said Brian Wolferts. "If they can demonize me publicly, then it excuses their behaviors."
Brian Wolferts has full legal custody and says he was devastated when his ex-wife helped the teens disappear while visiting with their mom in July 2014.
"It's hard as a parent when your children are unaccounted for," said Brian. "There's no closure in not knowing where they are."
Sydney and Danielle were in hiding for a year and half until January. That's when police got a tip the girls, now 16 and 15, were secretly living with their mom in an apartment in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
Michelle Wolferts was immediately arrested and the daughters were taken into protective custody.
"I just hugged them and told them everything's going to be OK," said Michelle.
Out on bail on misdemeanor charges of custodial interference, Michelle says she and her daughters were constantly on the move. She claims she stayed in hiding as long as she did to protect them.
"I felt like this amount of time was the only thing that would save them," said Michelle. "They needed to have some peace."
Separated since 2004, the Wolferts were legally divorced nine years ago and they've waged a bitter war over custody ever since. Their third and oldest daughter, 20-year-old Brittany Dangerfield, says her mother finally lost the battle in 2010 and claims a recent report from the local Department of Child and Family Services found both parents at fault.
"With the DCFS order, there was emotional abuse against both parents," said Dangerfield.
Still, Brittany Dangerfield sides with her mom, and says she moved out of dad's house at 18 because of his alleged emotional abuse. Brittany believes her sisters should live in Utah with their mom because it's what they want.
But court documents show that a district judge found Michelle Wolferts uncooperative, not credible, and backed up Brian Wolferts's claim that Michelle inappropriately coached the girls.
"The way that it's going right now is absolutely the worst possible scenario," said Brittany.
Brittany and her mother insist court testimony doesn't tell the whole story but realize the girls will likely get sent back to Topeka, Kansas.
For now Sydney and Danielle are considered flight risks, so they're being held at a local youth center where they're reportedly refusing to cooperate with authorities.
"Fifteen, 16 years old, you don't want to have to go through this," said Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez. "They obviously have rights. We would like them to voice their concerns to us. Right now they won't say anything."