- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Seven children who were taken to perform for occupiers during the armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge earlier this year have been placed in the temporary custody of Kansas child welfare officials.

Shawnee County Judge Steven Ebberts made the placement Wednesday after finding probable cause that the children of Odalis Sharp had been abused, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1WLkJFt ) reported.

“Any time I’m going to hear testimony that a child has been beaten to the point we have abrasions, broken skin and bleeding . that’s disturbing,” Ebberts said.

Sharp, 46, of Auburn, traveled with seven of her 10 children, who have a family gospel band, from Kansas to Oregon to sing for and support the 41-day occupation by armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. One daughter, 18-year-old Victoria Sharp, was riding with Nevada rancher LaVoy Finicum and three of the other militants when Finicum ran a roadblock and was shot and killed by Oregon state police.

Sharp told The Star as she left the hearing that she didn’t abuse her children.

“The federal government hates us right now, because my daughter is a primary witness of a murder they committed,” she said. “And so what do they do? They want the Sharp family out. And so they divide and conquer.”

According to testimony from a 2½ hour hearing, five of her children bolted Friday as she climbed in the shower. They removed guns from the house before getting a ride from a neighbor to the Shawnee County sheriff’s office.

Deputies arrested Sharp at her home Friday in connection with battery of a law enforcement officer and interference with law enforcement. Sharp said the arrest occurred after she went to court earlier that day trying to file paperwork accusing her landlord of breach of contract. Her landlord had earlier sought to have her removed from the home. She said when she returned home, law enforcement and employees with the Kansas Department of Children and Families were waiting.

Sharp was released on $3,000 bond, and no charges have been filed. An investigation is ongoing.

At Wednesday’s hearing, a children’s department social worker said the office had received three reports this year about the children’s welfare. The latest was Friday when some of the children ran from the home. The worker said the five children said their mother spanked them with a rod that left them with bruises and marks, struck them with a belt and slapped them.

Tim Sharp, the children’s father, lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Denver, and asked that the children be placed in his custody. Children’s department workers said the state needed more time to determine whether he would be an appropriate caregiver.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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