Runaway's Mom Argues For Custody Of 3 Children

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The 8-year-old who stole a pickup truck to drive home last week is not the only one of Paula Hornbeck's children to run away from foster care.

Since she lost temporary custody of her three children last winter, Anthony Mignano's 14-year-old half sister has run away several times and another half sister had to change foster homes because of a fire.

Now Hornbeck's lawyer is arguing that the children would be at least as safe with her as they have been in the custody of the Summit County Children Services Board.

Emily Hete filed a motion with Summit County Juvenile Court asking that custody of the children be returned to Hornbeck. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30.

"Mom couldn't do a worse job of taking care of these kids at this point," Hete said.

On Sept. 2, Anthony stole a pickup truck near his Twinsburg foster home and drove 20 miles into Akron before he was stopped and taken back into custody.

Anthony and his older half sister are now living with foster parents who specialize in caring for children with exceptional behavior and emotional problems. His 11-year-old half sister is living with her biological father.

The children were removed from their 30-year-old mother's home in February because of allegations that her live-in boyfriend of 12 years, Anthony C. Mignano, fondled the 14-year-old. The girl recanted the allegation the night she was removed and several times afterward. No criminal charges have been filed.

Children's services officials have said they have not relied on the girl's word alone; they cite unspecified evidence of violence in the home.

"There has been no evidence of violence presented in this case," Hete said. "The initial removal was based solely on the allegation of Alina, which was recanted by her on several occasions."

Agency spokeswoman Louise Miller said she could not comment.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)