Some cases are just heart wrenching. For Oklahoma City attorney Catherine Burton, the case involving former Eufaula Police Chief Larry Osmond was among the most heart wrenching of all.

Osmond, 56, and his wife Carol, 52, were each ordered to serve a two-year deferred sentence Monday for interfering with a child custody order.

A deferred sentence is not a conviction.

If the Osmonds do not violate any probation rules, they will not have felony convictions on their records.

Still, Burton said, it’s likely that neither will ever be able to work in law enforcement again, since their Council for Law Enforcement Education and Training certifications will no longer be valid. “CLEET is pretty strict on some of its rules, so the odds are against them getting back to doing the things they love,” Burton said. “That hurts them.”

“This case is just really, really upsetting to me,” Burton said Tuesday afternoon.

So much so, she wrote an article for the Trial Lawyer College about her feelings on the case. “I doubt they’ll print it, since it’s not about trial strategy or anything like that, but it was something I needed to get off my chest.”

Larry and Carol Osmond had each been charged in 2004 with felony child stealing after a multi-county grand jury found there was probable cause a crime had been committed and that the Osmonds had committed it.

The charges stemmed from the Osmonds’ refusal to turn their granddaughter, 5-year-old Christyn Luster, over to her paternal grandparents, as a Texas court had ordered.

Larry Osmond was also charged with perjury for telling officials he didn’t know where the child was, when he allegedly did.

The perjury charge was dismissed in September, when the Osmonds agreed to enter an Alford plea to an amended charge of interfering with a child custody order.

An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt. It does, however, acknowledge that there may be enough evidence in a case for a jury to find a defendant guilty.

“That was really the best thing we could do,” Burton said. “If they’d been convicted of the things they were initially charged with, they could have both been sentenced to prison time.”

Both were facing up to 10 years if convicted of child stealing. In addition, Larry Osmond could have received an additional five years if convicted of the perjury charge.

A special prosecutor in the case, Muskogee County District Attorney John David Luton, said he chose not to prosecute the child stealing or perjury charges, since proving the crimes could have been difficult.

Luton was appointed to the case after McIntosh County Assistant District Attorney Greg Stidham asked to be recused since he had worked with Larry Osmond while Osmond was the Eufaula police chief.

The Osmonds contended they were trying to protect Christyn Luster from her paternal grandfather, William “Darrell” Luster, of White Deer, Texas. They said that they believe Luster had molested the child when she and her mother, Shannon Luster, lived in the Texas home before coming to Oklahoma to stay with the Osmonds.

“It’s a convoluted and tangled case,” Burton said.

Tuesday afternoon, Larry Osmond e-mailed Burton’s story to the McAlester News-Capital, as well as about 30 other news outlets in the state, to tell something of their side of the story.

In the article, Burton alleges that Darrell Luster had molested Christyn, but in a telephone interview she acknowledged that nothing had been presented to a court to back up the allegations before the Osmonds were sentenced.

Darrell Luster flatly denies the allegations. The News-Capital could not verify he had ever been investigated for the crime. However, he is currently the marshal of White Deer, Texas, and had to undergo an extensive background check before he received his peace officer’s license.

Stuart Messer, district attorney for Carson County, Texas, said, “He became a peace officer after all of this started.” Messer declined to say if Luster had ever been investigated for molestation, but did say he had never been charged for that type of offense.

Darrell Luster and his wife, Lyn, had sued in Texas for guardianship of Christyn after Shannon Luster and her then-husband began having marital problems. Shannon moved to Oklahoma to live with her parents, bringing Christyn with her.

The Osmonds “noticed pretty quickly that something was wrong,” Burton said. They asked for an emergency protective order through McIntosh County, trying to gain custody of Christyn.

And the fight was on.

Burton said, “On the one side you had Texas saying Christyn should go to her grandparents there. On the other, the Osmonds believed she should stay with her grandparents here.”

Texas had ordered Christyn to be placed in her paternal grandparents’ custody in September 2002. In October, the Osmonds asked for an emergency guardianship through Oklahoma courts. After numerous delays, the Osmonds’ request for guardianship was dismissed and, in August 2003, then-District Judge Steven W. Taylor ordered the child to be placed with the Lusters.

Taylor found that no evidence of molestation by Darrell Luster had been put before the court, despite the allegations.

According to Eufaula attorney Deborah Reheard, who represented the Lusters in McIntosh County, Texas Child Protective Services offered to investigate the allegations, but the request was denied by Oklahoma officials.

Both attorneys say that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services investigated the allegations but no action was taken by ODHS.

“It was a mess all the way around,” Burton said.

The Osmonds were accused of helping Shannon Luster hide Christyn after Taylor ordered the child returned to Texas.

A Muskogee County deputy, Brenda Ellis, interviewed Christyn after the Osmonds made the allegations against Darrell Luster. She was later fired for helping hide the child from the courts.

Ellis and her daughter, who helped hide Christyn from authorities, face felony charges in Muskogee County.

“It’s just heart wrenching,” Burton said. “I honestly believe the Osmonds believe this happened to their granddaughter. What else could they do? They’re required to report suspected abuse and, when they did, no one did anything about it.

“Now they’re broke from fighting this case and they’re still facing charges in Texas, but they believe they were in the right.

“It’s just heart wrenching.”

Contact Doug Russell at drussell@mcalesternews.com.

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