BUCKHANNON – State police arrested a Buckhannon man on charges of child concealment Friday after he allegedly defied a court order by picking his daughter up after school and refusing to return her to her mother.
Thomas Lee Underwood, 35, was charged with child concealment, a felony, Friday following an incident that occurred Monday, Oct. 8, during which he allegedly violated a domestic protection order issued in Upshur County Family Court.
The order grants Underwood weekends-only visitation rights, according to the file.
According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s office, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, the juvenile’s mother submitted a handwritten statement to investigating officer Cpl. B.K. Wright with the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police.
The statement alleges that Underwood picked the couple’s 6-year-old daughter up after school on Monday, Oct. 8 without permission and had since refused to bring her home to her mother. According to Wright, an up-to-date copy of the order of protection issued in family court grants the girl’s mother custody, while Underwood has only weekend visitation rights.
Wright verified the order with Upshur County Magistrate Court, he noted in the complaint.
In the statement she delivered to Wright, the child’s mother said Underwood had previously threatened to leave West Virginia with the child, the criminal complaint states. In addition, the mother said Underwood’s previous actions had also frightened her: on several occasions, Underwood allegedly attempted to lure the child’s mother “away from a safe place to exchange the child.”
However, the child’s mother refused to cooperate because she feared for her safety, the file says.
The complaint also says that on Oct. 9, the child’s mother made plans to meet Underwood and her child at a distinct location near U.S. Route 33 at Wright’s direction.
However, Underwood failed to show up, and when Wright tried to call Underwood, the state trooper’s call went to voicemail.
The file says Underwood later allegedly contacted the child’s mother and said, “I hear you got the state police involved. You done screwed up.”
According to West Virginia Code, child concealment is the act of concealing, taking or removing a minor child “in violation of any court order with the intent to deprive another person lawful custody or visitation rights.”
Magistrate Mike Coffman set bail at $150,000 – $10,000 cash and $140,000 surety. The conditions of Underwood’s bond prohibit him from having any verbal or contact with the juvenile victim or her mother.
The penalty for a conviction of child concealment is confinement in the state penitentiary for one to five years.
However, at court’s discretion, a person found guilty of child concealment may be imprisoned in the county jail for up to one year, fined up to $1,000 or both.