Parents Refuse Cancer Therapy, Charged with Kidnapping

Parents Refuse Cancer Therapy, Charged with Kidnapping

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A father who took his son out of Utah, defying a court order to give the boy chemotherapy for cancer, was arrested in Idaho, but the 12-year-old boy and his mother were still missing Wednesday.

And now the father is, too, after being released by an Idaho judge on $50,000 bail before extradition hearings.

Both parents, Daren and Barbara Jensen of the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, have been charged with kidnapping in the state's custody battle for their son, Parker.

"We're not in the business of filing criminal charges to make people get treatment, but this is a matter of life or death," said Kent Morgan, a deputy district attorney for Salt Lake County.

Daren Jensen was arrested Saturday after a car accident in Bannock County, Idaho, where his wife has relatives. But she and the boy were nowhere to be found, said Angela Micklos, another deputy district attorney.

Micklos said she was shocked to learn Jensen had been released on bail, and while he's no longer considered a fugitive, Micklos said she doubts he'll show for extradition proceedings.

Jensen told police in Idaho his wife and son may be on their way for alternative medical care to Houston, where Morgan said the family planned to consult a "crackpot" doctor.

Utah doctors told child-welfare investigators that Parker Jensen has only a 5 percent chance of living without chemotherapy after they removed most of a cancerous lump from his mouth, Micklos said.

The parents refused, and state lawyers obtained a juvenile-court order for chemotherapy that was supposed to begin Aug. 8. But the family disappeared, and the state obtained a warrant to take custody of the boy. Within days, the family "absconded from the state altogether," Morgan said.

Morgan said the parents would have faced only contempt-of-court charges had they stayed in Utah, but now face felony kidnapping charges for taking their son out of state.

Before their disappearance, the Jensens told Salt Lake City television KUTV that 45 weeks of chemotherapy would stunt their son's growth and leave him sterile.

"We are totally competent parents, and it's ridiculous that we have to come here (to juvenile court) and prove we can make decisions for our child," Barbara Jensen told the station.

Morgan said that even if Parker Jensen became sterile from chemotherapy, "If you're dead, you can't have children either."

"It's pretty well settled in law that a state can intervene to save a child's life," said Susan Eisenman, an assistant attorney general for Utah.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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