FARGO — A Fargo woman who took her two children to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota after their fathers were awarded full custody three years ago, and was convicted of parental kidnapping, was released from jail last week and ordered to return the girls in 72 hours as part of her probation.
Instead, Tricia Taylor fled again back to the reservation in northwest South Dakota by cutting off her GPS ankle bracelet. The last trace of her going south toward South Dakota from Bismarck was Saturday, Sept. 23, about 75 hours after her release.
Cass County District Court Judge John Irby in Fargo agreed Wednesday, Sept. 27, that a warrant should stand for her arrest for violating terms of her probation. But Taylor’s defense attorney, Ross Brandborg, wanted the warrant to be stayed for a few days because they have a tribal court hearing scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29, where Taylor said she planned to ask the tribal court to give custody of the girls back to their fathers.
Meanwhile, the two Fargo fathers — Aarin Nygaard and Terrance Stanley — have been waiting more than 1,000 days, or more than three years, to have their children in their custody. Nygaard hasn’t seen his daughter since she was 18 months old. She is now 4½. Stanley has visited the reservation — reluctantly — to see his 9-year-old daughter a few times in recent months, but for only short periods of time.
Nygaard family spokesman Michael Nygaard, Aarin’s uncle, said they seriously doubt if there are any plans Friday for Taylor to tell the tribal court that she wants to give the girls back.
Instead, he said the plan for the Friday hearing in front of a newly appointed tribal judge from the nearby Standing Rock Indian Reservation was to deal with comity — the legal term for asking that the Cheyenne River tribe honor the state laws of North Dakota and legally have the custody of the girls returned to their fathers.
That issue wades into what has always been a trouble spot in tribal-state relations: The tribes say they are sovereign nations and don’t need to abide by state court rulings.
Michael Nygaard said they have had 11 hearings, but they were oftentimes canceled with little or no notice, in dealing with the jurisdictional, or comity, issues.
He said they have never been to any tribal custody or visitation hearings because they want to stick to the jurisdictional issue and have the tribe honor the North Dakota custody ruling.
The girls, whom Michael Nygaard hopes and believes have probably been taken good care of, have been staying in Timber Lake on the reservation with Taylor’s half-sister, Jessica Ducheneaux, who has been granted temporary custody by the tribal court.
Thus, Taylor actually doesn’t have any legal custody on the reservation or in North Dakota. The Nygaards and Stanleys say they would be thrilled if she gives the girls back.
Michael Nygaard said they’ve said all along that they would have worked on dropping all charges if she would just return the girls to their fathers.
Instead, Taylor stuck it out in state prison on the parental kidnapping charge and in jail on the latest contempt charge in family court for not returning the girls.
A North Dakota Supreme Court ruling in late August allowed Taylor to be released last week. The justices ruled that Taylor, who is on parole for the parental kidnapping conviction, was being held beyond the six months allowed for contempt of court on a civil family court custody issue.
They reversed a decision by Judicial Referee Susan Solheim to keep Taylor in custody indefinitely until the girls were returned.
Taylor’s attorney in the Supreme Court case, Stormy Vickers, didn’t want to comment publicly any further on the Taylor case when contacted Wednesday. Brandborg, who represented Taylor on the warrant delay request, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Nygaard, however, has his take on the case.
“We’ve said all along that it seems she hates the fathers more than she loves the girls,” Michael Nygaard said about Taylor’s reluctance to give up the girls and sit in prison and jail instead.
He said if she would cooperate, their families believe the girls need both parents.
“We aren’t trying to keep Tricia from the girls,” he said. Solheim’s custody ruling calls for Taylor to have supervised visitation with the girls.
Eventually, Michael Nygaard believes the girls will end up with their fathers. In the meantime, the drama continues.