Cleveland mom battles state to get her children back
A Bradley County mom says she's desperate to see her children again as a lengthy legal battle drags out.
Lyndsay Lewis was charged abusing her baby, but was found not guilty by a jury. What she can't understand now, is why, despite her innocence, she's still not allowed to see her kids.
Lewis says she was wrongly accused of child abuse, and even since being acquitted in September, says she's still be treated like a criminal. The Department of Children's Services says just because her criminal trial is over, that doesn't clear her from juvenile court. All she wants is to be heard.
"I need to be with my kids and my kids need to be with me," Cleveland mom Lyndsay Lewis said.
Lewis says it's been the toughest year and a half of her life, with no idea on when it will finally get better.
"There are days I feel defeated," Lewis said.
It started last summer. One minute she was sleeping, the next, awaken to a real-life nightmare.
"I woke up to him screaming for me and I ran down the stairs and they were both in the floor," Lewis said.
Her baby's father, Juan Villa, says he fell down the steps with their five-week-old son Xander in his arms. Lewis called 911. Doctors at the ER said his x-rays were fine. Over the next two weeks, though, she could tell he wasn't feeling well and took him back to the doctor several times. It wasn't until she went to Chattanooga for another opinion, that doctors there found 16 bone fractures in Xander.
"I was mad because I trusted doctors to tell me what was wrong with my son but they didn't," Lewis said.
Both parents were arrested on aggravated child abuse charges. After almost a year behind bars, they went to trial this September. Lewis says she always thought Villa was a good dad until the proof to the contrary came out in court.
"I was completely disgusted," Lewis said.
He was found guilty. Lyndsay Lewis was found not guilty. But, despite her acquittal, she remains under a no contact order with Xander and her 6-year-old daughter Serenity. The Department of Children's Services is responsible for the no-contact order. The appeal is still tied up in juvenile court. She says that's because DCS is dragging its feet, DCS says her attorney didn't file in time. Lewis says she just wants to be heard.
"They should be doing what's best for my kids, but they're not doing that," Lewis said.
"She was found not guilty by a jury of her peers. I don't see any reason why Lyndsay shouldn't be able to see her children," 10th Judicial District Assistant Public Defender John Fortuno said.
Even though the criminal trial is over, the public defender's office is still standing behind her. In fact, a couple within the office has taken her into their home to live. She's also gotten a job.
"She's done everything DCS has asked her to do. That should count for something," 10th Judicial District Public Defender Richard Hughes said.
Their hope is that she's heard in juvenile court and is allowed her to go back to her kids, who after another long legal battle, are staying with her parents.
"What we should all remember as attorneys and judges is that it's not just another file, that we represent real human beings with feelings," Hughes said.
"The only reason why I keep going and keep fighting is for the hope that I'll be with them," Lewis said.
As of now, the attorneys for DCS and Lyndsay Lewis are writing briefs requested by a juvenile judge to determine if and when her appeal will be taken up in court.
The baby's father, Juan Villa, will be sentenced for his criminal conviction Tuesday.