Indian Takers

Page 9 of 9

The judge held yet another hearing on the morning of January 25, and Shelly Walters' attorney soon brought up a sticky subject.

Kimberly Pugh said Walters' teenage daughter didn't want to be home alone anymore with Raven (according to Pugh, the girl is "home-schooled over the Internet.")

In turn, Walters was worrying about what to do with Raven while working as a waitress during the day.

Remarkably, Pugh suggested that Marty Laws, Raven's wayward dad, be allowed to babysit the child at Walters' residence.

Pugh informed the judge that Laws was on probation "from old drug charges" and that "he is in obeyance with all the terms of his probation."


Laws is facing a long prison term if convicted on the pending July 2006 theft charges.

But attorney Pugh wasn't alone in trumpeting Marty Laws as the solution.

An attorney representing Raven Laws at the hearing said she, too, had no problem with Laws' being in charge of the child's welfare during the day.

"I'm really in a quandary here," Flores said. "Isn't there any other option?"

"There really isn't, Your Honor," Kimberly Pugh replied. "I understand the circumstances are horrible . . . but [it's] a controlled environment with Mom [working] across the street."

CPS caseworker Charlotte Driver joined the chorus, saying she had met Laws once or twice, and "I honestly do not feel that he would ever harm his daughter or put his daughter in jeopardy in Mother's home."

Flores agreed to allow Laws to "provide care of [Raven] in Mother's home only. Father's ability to care for the child is conditioned upon Father's completion of his participation in services through CPS."

Also through CPS, the judge ordered Laws to participate in twice-weekly random drug testing, and "if Father tests positive for drugs, Father's authorization to provide care for the child will be revoked."

Before adjourning, Flores told Walters that she had seen a photo of Raven on television the previous evening.

"She's a beautiful child, and I'm just so happy that she's back with you," the judge said. "I want you to take good care of her."

Jack and Aneta Bessinger declined to discuss Raven's case at length with New Times.

"I don't know what could be gained by speaking," Jack Bessinger said last week by phone. "We'll always love that little girl, and we feel betrayed by [Flores] and by the whole system that's all up to reward messed-up parents."

Bessinger also said that he didn't put the Native American women up to kidnapping Raven, saying "that's not our way of doing things."

The couple's attorney, Greg Riebesehl, waxes philosophically about the situation: "Time may heal all pain, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do."

In hindsight, Riebesehl concedes that "to Mom's credit, she really did step up to the plate and wanted back in her child's life. And, realistically, she should [be] back in her child's life if she stays straight."

Judge Flores tells New Times she has heard nothing negative about Raven's parents since the little girl's safe return.

And as for the two women who took Raven Laws?

Both were released from custody shortly after their arrests, and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has yet to seek an indictment against either.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin