by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
Elizabeth Byler of Pennsylvania spent her childhood in what some would call, a bygone era, tucked away, far from the modern world in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was raised in a traditional Amish community where contact with the outside world was seldom, and only per necessity. Socializing with those who were not Amish was forbidden, as they did not share their austere traditions.
However, in the midst of that idyllic world, dark secrets of physical and sexual abuse persisted, of which no one dared to speak. Elizabeth was a victim of such abuse and vowed to never let her children suffer the same fate. The desire to protect her children is what drives her today, as she seeks to do everything in her power to get her children home. They have been taken from her, and are now reportedly being drugged.
After leaving the Amish community, she survived a near fatal motorcycle accident in May of 2009 which set into motion a series of events that have become a battle of a lifetime – a battle to return her children who were medically kidnapped from her, and are now being excessively drugged under foster care.
It should be noted that this is a story about one Amish community, and cannot be taken as reflecting the way of life of all Amish people. In fact, it was an Amish-run advocacy group that contacted Health Impact News and requested that we publish Elizabeth’s story.
Children Taken By Acquaintance Who Said She Wanted To Help
Following the accident, Elizabeth sustained injuries that were life-threatening, and she had to be airlifted to the hospital. It was uncertain if she would survive. Elizabeth had 30 broken bones and a floating knee in one leg, as well as a ruptured spleen. The prognosis was that she would live but might never walk again. She was in critical condition, and doctors were unsure if they could save her left leg from amputation.
For several days during her hospital stay, Elizabeth was heavily medicated, moving in and out of sleep. The nurses would wake her up periodically to see how she was doing while they monitored her heart. Two days after the accident, Elizabeth was awakened by a nurse to see how she was doing. She noticed a framed photo of her children on her nightstand. She thought it was strange that such a personal item was placed there. She did not have family nearby.
When Elizabeth asked where the photos came from, the nurse said that they were left there by a visitor, Betsy (pseudo name used for this story). The nurse said that Betsy had been spending a lot of time at the hospital, waiting for Elizabeth to awaken. The nurse went on to say that at Betsy’s recent visit, she had Elizabeth write a note stating that she was giving her temporary guardianship of her children.
Elizabeth could hardly believe what she was hearing. She barely knew Betsy. Elizabeth said:
I had seen her before. I knew of her, but I didn’t know her.
Betsy was raised in the same home as Elizabeth’s ex-husband and father of her children. Her ex-husband and his sister were put into foster care after their biological parents were indicted for child abuse and sent to prison for 12 years. Betsy’s parents were their foster parents until his biological parents got out of prison. However, Betsy was never a part of Elizabeth’s or her children’s lives.
Reportedly, Betsy came to Elizabeth that day in the hospital to offer to take care of her two children while she recovered. While Betsy was there, she had Elizabeth allegedly hand-write a letter stating that she was giving her guardianship over the children, only until Elizabeth was released from the hospital.
To this day, Elizabeth has no recollection of her being asked to write such a letter. Further, this was done while Elizabeth was allegedly heavily medicated.
Elizabeth later learned that Betsy had been allegedly calling herself the grandmother of the children to the hospital staff, and expressed an interest in taking the two children, Tatianna and John Jr., into her home.
After hearing this, Elizabeth had some reservation about letting her children stay with Betsy, but she did not feel that there was anything to be concerned about. Betsy appeared to be looking out for the children’s well-being. Elizabeth had been raised to always see the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. In her upbringing, it was customary to treat others in the community like family, which meant helping them in time of crisis.
Home After Hospital Stay, But Children Not Returned
After Elizabeth’s nearly three-week stay in the hospital, doctors said that she would be going home, though they were still unsure if she would walk again. She would still need to be heavily medicated for a while to mitigate the excruciating pain that she was experiencing.
Within a week of Elizabeth’s arrival home, Betsy came by to talk to her about her children. According to Elizabeth, she asked if she could continue to have legal guardianship of the children, only until Elizabeth had a full recovery. Elizabeth said that Betsy presented her with a three to four page document and asked her to sign it. According to Elizabeth, the document stated that she was giving Betsy temporary guardianship of the children.
Elizabeth said that Betsy promised her that it was only guardianship, and that is was only to help the kids with school-related matters and take them to doctor visits. Elizabeth said that Betsy told her that it was something she could do for her, given the long road ahead of her that included several surgeries and learning to walk again. Reportedly, Betsy begged Elizabeth, “Let me do this for you.”
Elizabeth, who was not given a guarantee that she would ever walk again, felt threatened by the gesture. She said, “Please don’t take my kids!” Elizabeth said that Betsy reassured her, saying that she was not asking for parental rights but temporary guardianship.
Elizabeth told Betsy that she needed some time to think about it. She asked Betsy to give her a week, but Betsy insisted that it be done that day. Elizabeth signed it but reiterated to Betsy that this would only be in effect while she was in recovery.
For about a year and half, Betsy continued to maintain a relationship with Elizabeth while she was in a wheelchair.
At a doctor’s appointment, Elizabeth was told that she would be getting a knee replacement and would be able to walk again. She called Betsy to let her know this and that she would like to bring her children home. Elizabeth said that Betsy was shocked and said,
“If that’s what you’re planning on doing, you’d better stop because I have a paper that says otherwise.”
After that, Betsy stopped taking Elizabeth’s calls.
Soon after her conversation with Betsy, Elizabeth received a document in the mail containing her signature. It stated that she was giving primary, legal, and physical custody of Tatianna and John Jr. to Betsy. It was signed by Judge Nancy Vernon.
Elizabeth was taken aback, because she did not recall signing such a document. She said that the signature had to have been forged.
Betsy Contacts CPS and Police—Accuses Elizabeth of Abuse
Elizabeth learned that Betsy had contacted CPS and police, accusing her of child abuse. Reportedly, the accusations included child neglect, child abuse, indecent exposure, and molestation. It was said that Elizabeth raped, tied, and gagged the children and took them to a strip club. After numerous CPS and police investigations that lasted up until this year, it was determined that the allegations were false.
There had been no CPS involvement, including legal correspondence, to alert her that her children had been moved into Betsy’s care. Elizabeth had no recourse, no way to refute what had been done. Her instinct was to go to the police.
Elizabeth did not know who to turn to. She could hardly believe that her children were stolen from her from someone who portrayed herself as someone who was only looking out for her best interests. To add to her pain, that same person was accusing her of child abuse.
A Baby Boy is Born
In 2012 Elizabeth gave birth to Arthur, who was also taken into CPS custody after a test at the hospital showed opiates in his stool. This was done despite Elizabeth telling them that it was a result of medication that her doctor prescribed. Later, it was proved that the medication was prescribed to Elizabeth by her doctor, and Arthur was sent home.
Note – it is not unheard of for Child Protective Services to seize newborn babies from mothers who test positive for properly prescribed medications. This happened to Lori Ibrahim in July of 2016. Even though she has documented evidence that the medications were properly prescribed to her, she still does not have her sons back.
Elizabeth Betrayed by Her Amish Community
Elizabeth was raised Amish within a community where family values were the glue that held them together. Family matters were kept within the confines of the community. If a child became orphaned, the members of the Amish community banded together to raise him or her. As a result, Elizabeth never knew anyone who had been in foster care. She knew nothing of the family court system.
Elizabeth was taught to always look for the good in people—to give them the benefit of the doubt. She carried with her a childlike trust and an open heart that still abides today. As a result of her upbringing, she said that she has always been “naive of anything having to do with the law.”
Elizabeth said that having friends outside the Amish community was not allowed. She said, “We were told, ‘don’t go to their house.’” She went on to say, “We were taught to be scared of outsiders.” However, they were dependent on those outside the community for certain things. For instance, she said, “If we needed to use the phone, we used the neighbor’s phone.”
Elizabeth’s mother had become pregnant out-of-wedlock from someone outside the Amish community. When her parents found out, she was given an ultimatum. She could stay, and watch another family raise Elizabeth, or leave, and never have any contact with her again. Not being able to withstand watching somebody else raise her child, she left the Amish—leaving Elizabeth to be raised by her aunt and uncle.
Elizabeth said that hers was “not an adoption by paper.” She said that she was “passed off from home to home.” She began being raped and molested from an early age. School became an escape for her. She said, “I was good at school, and I loved it. It got me away from my abusers and what was going on at home.” She dared not tell anyone about the abuse. She said:
I was scared. I was told that, if I told anyone, that I, and everyone that I loved, would die.
The cycle of abuse was perpetuated throughout her teen years. As a result, Elizabeth was moved around a lot. When she asked for the reason, she was allegedly told,
It was because we wanted you to forgive them [abusers].
Elizabeth contemplated leaving the Amish, but she had been told,
You’re going to hell if you leave the Amish.
At age 11 Elizabeth, who had never known her biological mother, was told by her family that she had died. It was then that she learned that the people she had been calling mom and dad were really her aunt and uncle.
It was not until age 17 that Elizabeth’s friends began telling her that they knew her mother, and that she was alive.
Elizabeth went on a search to find her. Her friends took her to the police department to see if they could help. The police officers helped Elizabeth find her—they drove her straight to her mother’s house.
Finding my mom—discovering she was alive. I didn’t believe it was her! I thought she was dead.
Elizabeth was in such disbelief that she made her mother show her the birth certificate.
At that time, Elizabeth and her mom began a relationship that they both treasured. It was the happiest time of her life. Her mom told her that she had gone back to the Amish community several times, asking to return to the Amish way of life and be close to Elizabeth. She said that every time she got closer to finding out where Elizabeth was, the Amish community would move Elizabeth. Elizabeth said,
My mom tried to go back, and they wouldn’t accept her.
“I always had that feeling of wanting to know more about my mom.” She said, “I didn’t know my mom for 17 years. I was brainwashed. They said that my mom hated me and didn’t want anything to do with me.”
Not long after discovering the truth about her mother, Elizabeth left the Amish community.
Their time together was short-lived, however. Elizabeth’s mother died about a year and a half after she found her.
Elizabeth Seeks Help from Police – But Police Turn Against Her
Elizabeth was determined not to give up on getting her children back, and in the fall of 2012 she went back to the police station. There, she was told that CPS had closed the case regarding Tatianna and John Jr. that year, and that the documents stated that they were living with a caregiver.
Elizabeth, who had been physically and sexually abused as child, decided long ago that she would always seek to protect her children, no matter what.
She had been in constant contact with the police department in Fayette County, speaking mostly with Trooper Clem. Each time she went by or called, she begged them to help her get her children back.
As a result of growing up in a reclusive Amish community, Elizabeth said that she has always had a rudimentary understanding of the law and did not know how it really worked outside the Amish community. Her inclination has always been to go to the police whenever an injustice has been done. Her repeated contact with the police was simply her way of grasping at any resource that she could find to try to get her children back.
Unfortunately, the police began to suspect that Elizabeth was guilty of child abuse, based on the false allegations made by CPS.
Elizabeth said that a police officer told her that if she would “back out” of her pursuit of trying to get her children back, that “Betsy would have the kids, and this would stop.” According to Elizabeth, the officers said that she should do it for her children, and that, “this just might be the best thing for them.”
Elizabeth said that the officers asked her to talk about the times she had seen her children naked. Elizabeth said, “The only thing I can possibly think of was when Tatianna said that her hoo hoo hurt. It was red and irritated, and I took care of it. As any mother would.” She went on to tell how when John Jr. was being potty trained and learning to wipe. He asked her to look at it and be sure that he did a good job.
Elizabeth said that it was then that the police officer said, “Well, that’s indecent assault, right there!” Elizabeth cried out, “There’s no way I would have done this to my kids. I am a victim of this myself.” She said that Trooper Clem said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before I did the lie detector test?” According to Elizabeth, the police officer said, “You don’t want your children growing up like you did, do you? You might not have meant to hurt them, but you did.”
The indecent assault charge was eventually reduced to child endangerment. For the first time, Elizabeth hired an attorney. There were multiple court hearings, and at each one there were several plea deal offers. Elizabeth turned down every one and demanded that it go to trial. The case continued for several months. When the time came to try the case, the attorney allegedly asked Elizabeth for $1500.00. She did not have it, and as a result, Elizabeth was told that she must then take a plea deal. She was told to plead no contest. Elizabeth was given three months of house arrest.
CPS Takes Arthur Again
Arthur could not live with Elizabeth as long as she was on house arrest. In March of 2014, the baby was with his father, but the father got into some trouble. He turned Arthur over to his mother’s care (the baby’s grandmother), who then contacted CPS. CPS took Arthur and placed him into foster care.
Elizabeth said that the goal was reunification until January of this year, but recently CPS began denying her visitation. Recent court documents show that they are seeking to terminate her parental rights, although she has done everything that has been asked of her. She said that the court is using drug charges, from when Arthur was born, as well as allegations of child sex crimes, relating to what happened with the two older children. She said that the judge will not allow CPS to use charges of child sex crimes, but instead insists on child endangerment, as well as the drug charges.
Elizabeth has had concerns about Arthur’s foster parents. She said that they have been calling him “their son,” and had changed his name to Alex. She said that the couple has been wanting to change Arthur’s name for a while and that CPS has had to get involved on more than one occasion to get them to stop calling him Alex.
Elizabeth said that she has learned that the foster parents were allegedly separated and living in separate homes but telling the judge that they were together. Reportedly, the foster mother has said that she “will fight her husband for the boys,” and that Arthur allegedly took the place of the baby she lost in a miscarriage. Elizabeth went on to say that the couple begged her to not take Arthur—to leave him with them. For a while now, Elizabeth has been concerned about the unstable environment that Arthur has been subjected to.
Approximately four months ago, Elizabeth said that Judge Nancy Vernon was to make a ruling within 15 days, but they are still waiting for it. At a recent permanency hearing, Elizabeth said that she told her attorney that she wanted to address the issues with Arthur’s foster home. She said that he told her, “We’re not here for that. We’re here for permanency.”
Notably, Judge Nancy Vernon’s signature is on the alleged forged document relating to Tatianna and John Jr. Elizabeth said that she wonders if the judge feels “backed up against the wall” and does not know what to do in Arthur’s case.
Friend and Advocate Murdered
After her accident, one of Elizabeth’s friends shared concerns that she had about the lady who took Elizabeth’s children. Elizabeth reports that she told her to be careful. Carmen Higinbotham, the wife of Ron Higinbotham, was a blood relative of Betsy. Carmen had an uneasy feeling about Betsy showing so much interest in Elizabeth’s children. Reportedly, she told Elizabeth, “Don’t trust Betsy,” and to “be careful” around her. Carmen made a commitment to Elizabeth said that she would do anything to help Elizabeth get her children back.
About a month after Elizabeth’s car accident, Carmen was killed. Her husband ran over her with a car, and was later found guilty of homicide. See story here.
Serious Allegations of Corruption Surface Against Betsy
Others who know Betsy have allegedly come forward to warn Elizabeth, including an Amish advocacy group. Reportedly, they have warned Elizabeth and her team of people helping her get her children back that there are “people in Betsy’s back pocket” and that she “better be ready to open this can of worms.” She said that Betsy said that Elizabeth and her team “best be ready for war with guns loaded.”
She went on to say that if they “don’t have strong legal people on board” that they will lose their jobs, even their lives. One person told Elizabeth that the judge did not sign the custody document in question, that “Betsy and her people did it all behind closed doors” and that it “is absolutely not legal.” She said that attorneys “drew up” the document. Further, she said that Betsy knew that having Elizabeth sign the document while heavily medicated was illegal. One person has confirmed that the document has not been filed in the courts anywhere.
This person said that this was not the first time that Betsy had been involved in kidnapping children. She said that the last time she kidnapped children, she fled with them out of state. She said that when the authorities found her, the children were returned. This was allegedly done under one of Betsy’s other three identities, and that she paid a large sum of money to have the incident removed from records.
Children Heavily Medicated in Foster Care
It has been six years since Elizabeth has seen Tatianna and John Jr. Since they were taken, Elizabeth has learned that each of them is on large amounts of medication. Each child is allegedly on 90 mg of Adderall, which has caused them to be “like zombies.” According to ADD Warehouse, the maximum recommended dosage is 30 mg a day.
John Jr. has allegedly been medicated so much since being taken from his mother that he tried to poison Betsy twice. Elizabeth has been told that this was probably done with the intent to kill her. She said that he poured tanning lotion in her drink because “she wouldn’t let him and Tatianna see their mom.” Elizabeth believes that this was a cry for help.
Elizabeth and her husband of two years, Rudy, who was also born and raised Amish, have anxiously awaited the day that the children would be home for good. Their home is spacious with a big yard. There is room for each child.
Since the accident, Elizabeth has endured six surgeries, including one last September where her leg was amputated. She is in the process of getting a prosthesis.
A representative for an Amish advocacy group offered to help when he saw Elizabeth’s petition online. He said,
Ripping the children from her and putting them through this for seven years—we’re looking at child abuse.
He wants to make sure that Elizabeth does not go another Christmas without her children.
This is not the first time that Fayette County has been accused of taking children improperly. The lawsuit, Doe vs. Fayette County Children and Youth Services, found that the state of Pennsylvania improperly removed three children, and they were forced to return the children to their father.
Recently, Elizabeth went to the Mercer County police station and showed them the custody document that appeared having her forged signature. They told her it was a civil matter and needed to be taken to Fayette County. Elizabeth has since filed a criminal complaint with the district attorney’s office in Fayette County.
How You Can Help
Supporters have set up a Facebook group that other supporters are welcome to join called Justice 4 the Bylers.
A petition to help Elizabeth get her children back, Non-Amish Woman Steals Children from Amish-Born Woman, is here.
Here are the legislators for the Bylers’ district:
Senator Michelle Brooks is at 717-781-1322. She may be contacted here.
Representative Tedd Nesbit is at 717-783-6438. He may be contacted here.
Fayette County Children and Youth Services Director Gina D-Auria is at 724-430-1283. She may be contacted here.
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