Rock Hill mom loses custody of children for second time

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 31, 2014 

Misty Williford

A Rock Hill mother whose children were taken from her last summer because police said her home was filthy and littered with animal feces lost custody of her sons a second time after deputies allege she violated terms of a safekeeping agreement she made with social services officials.

Misty Williford, 35, does not face charges in connection with a Monday incident in which deputies searching for a burglar found her with the two children that should have been in her mother’s custody, authorities said.

But, on Friday, officials issued two bench warrants for her arrest after they say she twice failed to appear for scheduled court dates when she would stand before a judge on two charges of unlawful conduct toward a child. That case is still pending.

Last July, a caseworker with the state Department of Social Services requested police help her search Williford’s northern Rock Hill home to perform a welfare check on the children living there. When authorities arrived, they found the house empty, and an extension cord running from Willford’s house to her neighbor’s.

Police found that the front door was damaged and saw that the living room was in disarray, according to police documents. An officer called for backup because it appeared the house had been burglarized. The homeowner told police that Williford is her daughter and she and her boyfriend live there without paying rent or mortgage, the report states.

Police spoke with Williford by phone and told her they were investigating a call about unlawful conduct toward a child. Williford told officers she and her family had gone out of town to the beach.

With permission from the homeowner, police continued searching the house and found animal feces on the floor and on top of mattress pads and clothing, the report states. The mattresses had no sheets, and clothes that had been thrown on the floor were covered in feces. Police found more feces in the bathroom’s tub and toilet. The extension cord running from a neighbor’s home connected to two fans, a television and a video game console, the report states. Another extension cord ran to the refrigerator.

Two neighbors told police they saw Williford and her boyfriend at the home a day earlier. Williford refused to report to the home with her sons to speak with DSS agents, according to the report.

After her release from jail, Williford told The Herald that DSS never contacted her before police went to her home and found what she believed was the result of a burglary. When she returned home, she said dresser drawers were pulled onto the floor, electronics were missing and “trash was everywhere.” She said she was unsure if burglars broke in and “stayed there,” adding that she did lock her two cats inside the house and they in turn left “a mess.”

Williford turned herself in to police, who charged her with two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child. Since then, her case has been pending in Circuit Court. According to her bench warrants, she was required to appear in court on Jan. 20 and this past Monday. It was unclear Friday if she had been arrested. Once found, she will face charges for failure to appear.

On Monday, deputies arrested her boyfriend, Michael Christopher Kennedy, 39, at their Rock Hill home. Police served him with several outstanding warrants accusing him of stealing more than $2,000 in power tools, lawn-care equipment, jewelry, hunting knives and firearms from Williford’s stepfather over the span of two months last year. Kennedy, deputies say, then sold the stolen merchandise to three Rock Hill pawn shops and also failed to renew his status on the sex offender registry.

He is being held at the York County Detention Center on 12 counts of receiving stolen goods, 12 counts of breach of trust, one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of sex offender registry violation. His bond was set at $18,280.

While searching the home, deputies found an item they thought was being used to make methamphetamine. They never found any meth, but discovered that Williford was “in direct violation” of a state DSS action plan mandating her sons, 4 and 8, remain in their 60-year-old grandmother’s custody. That same action plan, officials say, required the children’s grandmother to supervise all visits the children had with Williford and Kennedy.

DSS took custody of the children, said DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus.

Safety action plans are written and signed agreements between DSS, the parents from whom the children are taken and the relative or guardian assuming responsibility of the children. Those agreements specify the guardian’s duties and outline rules for visits with the biological parents and any other terms agreed upon. When the plans are violated, DSS re-enters the picture and tries to place the child in a safer environment, Matheus said.

“We don’t press criminal charges,” Matheus said. She said the caseworker will determine if the violation requires police involvement. Deputies did not file charges against Williford or her mother.

Efforts to reach Williford on Friday were unsuccessful. Both Erin Joyner, the prosecutor, and Williford’s defense attorney, York County Public Defender Phil Smith, declined to comment.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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