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WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 16, 2013, 06:01 PM

A volatile grandparents rights battle lands a Fargo mother in jail

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - 32-year-old Katina Tengesdal of Fargo is not in jail for any criminal charge. She's refusing to let her parents spend unsupervised visitation time with their 7-year-old grand-daughter - Katina's daughter.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - 32-year-old Katina Tengesdal of Fargo is not in jail for any criminal charge.

She's refusing to let her parents spend unsupervised visitation time with their 7-year-old grand-daughter - Katina's daughter.

At issue? Allegations, and investigations into abuse.

Tengesdal: “It is a decision I make every day I wake up.”

Katina Tengesdal is now on day 6 wearing orange at the Cass County Jail - Here on a civil matter, not criminal.

Katina: “I have been sitting here watching people on criminal charges bonding out and I am still sitting here.”

Katina is here because Cass County District Judge Doug Herman ordered her to jail on a contempt charge. The reason? She refuses to allow her parents unsupervised visitation with Katina's 7-year-old daughter.

Katina: “I feel if I sent her there unsupervised, that it would not be the best thing for her, that she would be in trouble in danger.”

And this is where things get murky. WDAY 6 News has obtained copies of a ND Attorney General's investigation, BCI agents, who looked into allegations of sexual abuse leveled against an adult male Tengesdal family member. According to the investigative report, allegations of inappropriate behavior. Detailed accusations including a request from the alleged perpetrator to an alleged victim: "Don't tell anybody this happened."

Katina: “This is what this case is all about. Everything hinges on these papers; it shows my reasons for why I am doing what I am doing.”

In the end, however, no charges would be filed. One of the alleged victims stopped cooperating with authorities. And according to this BCI investigative report, there was not enough evidence to pursue any charges.

Katina: “I thought it was best to just let it go.”

When asked if he considered the investigative report and the abuse allegations when granting the grandparents visitation order, Judge Herman said he could not comment on pending cases.

Katina cannot afford an attorney, and so she sits in jail, despite filling out a form requesting a public defender. It is somewhere in the system.

Jason Miller, Katina’s boyfriend: “I don't understand.”

Her boyfriend, who works nights, has even had to take Katina's daughter to work overnight and then get her to school in the morning. Jason Miller says the 7-year-old is like a daughter to him, and he supports his girlfriend's convictions.

Jason: “She is going to be in danger around them. I would not let them go to someone's house if she would be in danger. I just cannot believe they can take her to court and if you can't afford a lawyer and they can they can just say hey, you have to let her go with her grandparents and be in danger.”

Katina could likely get out of jail now by simply agreeing to the grandparent visitation order. But she is willing to sit here on that contempt charge, risking her job and a home mortgage - the price she is willing to pay, she says, to keep her daughter safe.

Katina: “As long as it takes, I will protect my daughter, I will do what it takes to protect my daughter.”

This case comes just a month after a similar grandparents visitation dispute in Grand Forks.

The case even sparked a rally of supporters for the parents, who were upset a Judge granted visitation to grandparents, despite the objection of the parents.

Some at the protest thought the ruling threatened parental authority.

Fargo Attorney Julie Oster specializes in family law.

She says state law calls for reasonable visitation rights, if it's in the best interest of a child.

Foster: “The statute has not changed. The laws have always remained the same but the Grand Forks has opened it up a little more and the case law is a little more free and open to give more grandparents rights.”

Minnesota has similar grandparent visitation rights laws.

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