Despite being cleared of abuse allegations, Pasco couple haven't seen their kids in almost 8 years

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldMay 11, 2014 

Shved Mothers Day

Olga and Boris Shved pose for a photo on Thursday in downtown Kennewick. In 2006 the couple's children, Ella and Ruslyn, were removed from their care after accusations of child abuse which have since been overturned. The couple has been cleared of criminal accusations but is still spending another Mother's Day without their kids.

SARAH GORDON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

PASCO -- Olga and Boris Shved never got to walk their kids to class on the first day of school.

They didn't get to see baby Ella take her first steps or push trucks around the sandbox with her brother, Ryslan. They've missed many milestones and special occasions.

For almost eight years, Olga and Boris Shved have been parents without the actual joys and challenges of parenting.

They keep two bedrooms decorated in their Pasco home for their son and daughter, but those rooms have been empty since 2006, when Ella and Ryslan were taken away.

Olga, now 31, was charged with abusing her baby girl, and Boris, 34, was accused of failing to protect his kids.

After years of legal battles -- including a two-year prison stint for Olga -- the courts recently cleared her of all criminal wrongdoing and reinstated the couple's parental rights.

Yet on Sunday the Shveds found themselves spending another Mother's Day alone while their kids, now 8 and 10, live with foster parents about 1,500 miles away in another state.

A Franklin County judge is still weighing whether the children can be returned.

"We want our kids back so bad," Olga said.

"I wouldn't wish this to my worst enemy," said her husband. "They're just kids, they haven't done anything."

However, state prosecutors and social workers still feel the same as when a Juvenile Court judge determined in 2007 that the Shveds were unfit parents and should have no further contact with their children.

Assistant Attorney General Kevin Hartze has argued that just because Olga was acquitted of assault doesn't mean she is innocent.

At the time, the judge ruled the children were abused or neglected, that Ella had injuries caused by "nonaccidental trauma" at a time when her parents had exclusive control of her and that anger management issues were involved, Hartze said.

He contends the criminal case is irrelevant to the child dependency matter, where it is the court's role to step in and safeguard the kids.

"In essence, what the mother is asking is that we rearrange our system. ... Whatever happened in the criminal case is going to rule, and we're going to go back and unscrew whatever may or may not have been done," Hartze said.

The children "need finality and balance," he recently told Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider, arguing to clear the way for their adoption.

Olga and Boris know a judge originally ruled they were abusive based on the information at the time. They did not participate in parenting services because they refused to admit harming the kids.

But the couple and their attorneys, Linda Lillevik of Seattle and Jim Egan of Kennewick, say the abuse claims are unsubstantiated.

They point to new evidence used in the criminal case showing Ella may have medical conditions from her time in the womb or during childbirth that caused at the time the 4-month-old baby's skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and other injuries and bruises.

The Shveds are hopeful Schneider will reconsider his earlier order, review alleged misconduct by a caseworker and return the kids to their parents.

Boris tries not to think about all that has happened with his young family because it is too painful, he said.

The acquittal and recent court developments took a big weight off his shoulders, and he looks to the future when he may be able to reunite the kids with their cousins, aunts, uncles and other loved ones.

"I don't know about justice, but I do have hope," Boris told the Herald. "If there was justice, this wouldn't have happened in the beginning. (Attorneys and case workers) would have done the right thing."

Doctors: Textbook child abuse

Paramedics were called to the Shved home in June 2006. Olga, who went with her daughter to the hospital, told medical staff she was trying to give the girl "water with an eye-dropper when the child appeared to choke and may have stopped breathing."

Ella, born two months premature, was underweight and had difficulty breastfeeding.

A doctor found numerous scratches on the baby's body and breaks in her arm, thigh and ribs that were at least 2 weeks old.

Ella also had two subdural hematomas and corresponding skull fractures that were more recent, possibly happening within a day or even hours of the baby's hospitalization.

Doctors described it as textbook child abuse, saying multiple fractures "would have required more force than that required to break an uncooked chicken bone."

Olga explained that the baby slipped out of her soapy hands during a bath and fell in the tub.

Authorities questioned why she put makeup around the infant's left eye to cover up a bruise. Olga said she was told to buy a certain makeup product because it had medicinal benefits for the skin, and didn't realize at the time that she could get a translucent product.

While Franklin County prosecutors waited on investigative reports before filing charges, an assistant attorney general moved forward with the dependency matter and the eventual termination of their parental rights.

Olga says Ella was taken from her that first day, and a crying 21/2-year-old Ryslan was removed from their home by a Pasco police officer several days later.

The children were placed with a foster family, even though Olga said both of their parents and other relatives live in the Tri-Cities.

The Shveds were charged in May 2007 in Franklin County Superior Court: Olga with first-degree assault of a child, a felony, and Boris with failing to report an offense against a child, a gross misdemeanor.

Boris' case was dismissed months later. A jury convicted Olga, and she was sentenced in December 2009 to 10 years in prison. The next year, Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge terminated the Shveds' parental rights.

'The worst time of my life'

Boris Shved described it as "the worst time of my life" -- his children were removed from their home, he lost his longtime job as a welder and his wife was locked up on the other side of the state.

Olga served two years and three days in the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. Her husband spent about $1,500 in prison phone calls, in addition to the cost of driving to the west side to visit every other weekend.

Olga was given trusty status for her good behavior and would clean the prison's administrative offices.

"It was very hard and stressful. For a couple months I cried every night," she said. "It was very hard for me."

The couple say their relationship is stronger than ever, largely because of their Pentecostal faith.

"Christians don't separate. We love each other, so why do we need to separate?" said Olga, a native of the Republic of Moldova. Her husband is from Ukraine.

After the state Court of Appeals reversed Olga's conviction, citing improper instructions given to the jury, her case was returned to Franklin County.

At the same time, a panel of judges reviewing their parental rights case sent that back, as well.

While out on bail, Shved was given the chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor that would keep her out of prison and avoid deportation. She turned it down because, she said, admitting guilt would have been a lie and she still wouldn't have gotten her kids returned.

"She fought religious persecution in Russia, now she's fought her persecution here and she's fighting for her children here, which is just unbelievable that she would have to do that in the United States," Lillevik told the Herald.

'The entire system is unjust'

On Feb. 21, 2014, Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor found there was insufficient evidence to prove Olga abused her daughter.

The acquittal came after a trial with the judge instead of a jury.

Egan said two California doctors refuted the abuse allegations and said Ella's injuries were the result of bone disease, not trauma.

VanderSchoor ruled an epileptic seizure was responsible, along with diffusely demineralized bones that don't have the strength of normal bones.

The judge also found that medication given to Olga to stop early labor contractions, along with the vacuum-assisted delivery during Ella's premature birth, could have been responsible for the skull fractures and other issues.

Ella reportedly has continued to suffer seizures, and Lillevik and Egan said they have not been able to relay this medical information to the foster care family to get proper treatment for the girl.

On April 18, Judge Runge vacated her earlier termination order, giving parental rights back to the Shveds -- a move that Lillevik has rarely seen in her 27 years practicing law.

Lillevik said it's frightening that Olga "was convicted of a crime she didn't commit, and possibly a crime that didn't even happen." The state "overstepped its bounds" on the case and should stop dragging out the reunification, she said.

Hartze argued that a criminal conviction isn't needed for a finding of parental unfitness.

"Justice was done, the process was followed and appropriate decisions were made," he argued.

In light of Olga's acquittal, Runge said, the Department of Social and Health Services' case "topples like a house of cards."

'A tragedy all the way around'

The lawyers for the Shveds are asking Judge Schneider to throw out his prior findings.

They allege misconduct by the previous assistant attorney general, social worker and guardian ad litem on the case.

Egan and Lillevik say it was improper and unethical for the assistant attorney general to be in a relationship with the caseworker while they both were handling the Shved matters. The two later married.

The attorneys also gave Schneider paperwork showing the caseworker listed her employment position on Facebook as "professional baby snatcher," with the description that she is "yelled and screamed at on a daily basis for other people's problems ... but I do it for the kids and I don't think I could do anything else."

The caseworker's Facebook postings show she regularly complained about judges, lawyers and her cases, going into specific details on some matters like paternity or a child's abuse, and talked about needing a drink or prescription drugs after work.

The day Olga was sentenced, the caseworker said it's "freaking time" and replied to a friend that "maybe she'll fall while in prison and break her ribs, or nose, or arm, or leg or ... ."

Hartze argued to the court earlier this month that those statements shouldn't be admissible because there's no proof of the misconduct allegations, and the Facebook postings are from 2009.

Lillevik said it's time for justice and for the Shveds to become a family again.

"On the other part of this tragedy is those foster parents. They love Olga's children, and I'm sure her children love the foster parents," Lillevik said. "At this point it's just a tragedy all the way around."

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