Polk County jury rules in favor of father after mom defies court order to return children to Texas

On May 7, 2019, the Polk County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Elizabeth Annette Davis for the felony offense of Interference with Child Custody.  Davis was found guilty by a Polk County jury. 

She was sentenced to serve six months confinement at a state jail facility of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  Assistant Criminal District Attorney Kirby A. Wills secured the conviction for the State of Texas by focusing the jury’s attention on Davis’s actions.  

During a 2017 child custody dispute, Davis was served with court orders and other documents requiring her to appear and bring the parties’ minor child before Judge Tom Brown in the Polk County Court at Law for a hearing to determine custody.  Davis chose not to appear and did not return the child to Texas.  Following that November 2017 hearing, the court ordered the child to be placed with her father who resided in Polk County. Davis spent the next year in violation of the court’s order with the child.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office opened its investigation into this case in October of 2018 and alerted federal authorities that Davis was likely hiding outside of Texas with the child.  Davis was apprehended in November 2018 when the U.S. Marshal Service Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force developed information that she was hiding with her mother Dawn Bello at a motel north of Mobile, Ala.  The team arrested Davis on the outstanding arrest warrant from Polk County and secured the child. They also discovered a second younger child who was not part of the original November 2017 custody order.  It was later confirmed that both children were of the same father.

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The team found U.S. passports issued under assumed names for both Davis and the child which was subject to the Polk County custody order.  The Polk County Sheriff’s Office followed up on this lead and obtained a falsified birth certificate issued for this child from the State of Florida.    

Testifying at the trial,  Polk County Sheriff’s Captain Ricky Childers stated the principal feature of this case that distinguishes it from other interference cases is the length Davis went to in order to hide herself and the children from detection and apprehension.   

The State produced 13 pieces of evidence, primarily court documents, and testimony from four witnesses.  Despite defense arguments that this was merely a custody matter, the jury understood the real issue was whether Davis egregiously and intentionally violated a lawful custody order of the Polk County Court at Law.  By finding Davis guilty, the jury upheld the authority of the court and its order.

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