Muse custody case delayed over procedural issue

Daily Courier/June 30, 2004
By Jerry Stensland

Rutherfordton -- A hearing regarding custody issues for the four children of former Word of Faith Fellowship member Shana Muse was delayed Tuesday until sometime in August.

Procedural requirements for proper notice were not followed to the letter causing the delay.

In October 2003, a judge found the WOFF environment abusive to children and ordered the four children of Muse placed in the custody of the Rutherford County Department of Social Services.

Muse had left the children with WOFF ministers, Kent and Brooke Covington, while Muse left the controversial church. Muse eventually sought counseling at a treatment center in Ohio specializing in ex-cult members. She returned to Rutherford County in December of 2002 to attempt to get her children back.

A custody dispute arose, leading to a DSS-led proceeding and October's ruling by Judge Randy Pool.

Muse has four children, two teenage girls and two younger boys. The two girls, Sarah Almanie, 17, and Rachael Almanie, 16, have applied for emancipation which would allow the girls to make their own decisions and remove both DSS and Muse from legal guardianship roles.

A response by Muse to the emancipation claim is due July 17.

Muse's two boys have been staying at a separate foster home from the girls.

Judge Pool's ruling has been appealed by the Covingtons to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

In other legal maneuvers, attorneys for the WOFF and Lacy Wien are gathering statements and planning strategy for an expected fall trial of a $2.8 million civil suit filed by Wien.

Attorneys for the WOFF and DSS are also gathering information on a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by WOFF against the agency.

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