NASHVILLE, TN ­– No mother should have to choose between her three older kids and the 4-week-old baby DCS took from her in October 2020. But that was the hard choice Abby West had to make. 

“I think the goal of giving me an attorney in the divorce was to get me to sign the settlement agreement,” said West, mother of 4. The judge awarded West $5,000 to hire a lawyer and $300/month support during the divorce trial. The agreement West ended up signing is not in line with Tennessee case law that gives parents equal time with their children after a divorce. 

But it meant West could start having parenting time with her three older children, so she signed a settlement agreement. She gets them 104 days a year. Her ex-husband has them 261 days. 

“Three months later DCS non-suited Lucy’s case,” West told the Tribune. DCS dropped its prosecution of West after snatching her baby and harassing her for 10 months while the divorce was underway. DCS acted like a meat hunter closing in on wounded prey.

When divorcing parents can’t agree on terms and DCS gets involved, it usually takes Mom’s side; sometimes it takes Dad’s; sometimes DCS takes the kids away from both parents. (See https://tntribune.com/when-charges-fly-kids-end-up-in-foster-care/)

The Tribune has reported about DCS manipulation of police, hospitals, judges, and court proceedings in Tennessee Juvenile and District courts. (See https://tntribune.com/black-father-fights-to-be-a-dad/)

In a Montgomery County DCS case, Ralph Ulysses has gotten two judges to recuse themselves because they refused to hear a motion to remove a restraining order that should have been heard by October 2020 and is still in effect. Ulysses has not seen or talked to his daughter since Feb 2021. 

He returns to court next month. Ulysses hopes Juvenile Court Judge Wayne Shelton will vacate the restraining order and change the venue to Davidson County. Abby West has already been there and it was no easy walk in the park. 

“My divorce and custody battle definitely had an effect on Lucy’s case. That could be why DCS responded so dramatically and rushed in they way they did,” West said.

The DCS case against West started September 11, 2020. DCS investigator Sylvia Vanderbilt went to West’s home in Donelson to tell her traces of methamphetamine were found in Lucy’s umbilical cord.

Lucy Lassiter at two weeks old. DCS took her two weeks later..

On October 2, Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator Teena Jones visited West at home. It checked out fine. West peed into a cup and signed an agreement not to be around drug users and to be subject to random drug screens. Jones told West the case would be closed. But it was really just beginning.

On October 5, CPSI Alexandrea Hickson came to the home and Mom peed into another cup. Hickson told her that it was positive for THC.  West explained again that CBD would have traces of THC, and you can buy it over the counter as she did, legally.

Sometime between October 2 and October 5, DCS learned West’s partner, Luke Lassiter, had a DCS case in Hickman County. They probably heard about it from Adam West, Abby’s ex. He called DCS the day before Lucy was removed. 

Baby Lucy was taken into custody around midnight in a Berry Hill Wendy’s parking lot on October 6, 2020. She was four weeks old.

Family Law Attorney Connie Reguli filmed it. (See https://youtu.be/bTjVf-hgjuE)

“You’re going to see what a real government kidnapping looks like,” Reguli says into her cell phone camera and then walks into the parking lot where several squad cars are blocking West’s car. Lucy’s dad, Luke Lassiter, is standing by his truck. 

One by one, Reguli talks to four officers and asks them why they are blocking them in. One of them says it’s a missing child. “She’s not missing. She’s right there with her Mom,” Reguli tells him. 

The police got on their phones but couldn’t reach DCS and Reguli tells one of the officers that DCS never called her and she represents Lucy’s Dad, Luke Lassiter. Thirty minutes go by before DCS caseworker Kimberly White shows up with a non-exigent removal order—which means it’s not an emergency. But DCS was obviously in a rush to take the baby.

Reguli gets on the phone with DCS supervisor Sylvia Vanderbilt. She asks her what the allegations are and if DCS held a safety placement meeting with Lucy’s parents. They are required by policy to have one. Vanderbilt hangs up on her. 

And then ”under the color of law” baby Lucy is taken into custody. “This is what they do,” Reguli says. “And they get the cops to come out and help them.” The video has had 214,000 views on YouTube 

DCS Case Against Lucy’s Mom and Cullen’s Dad: drugs they didn’t take

West once did have a drug problem. She relapsed in 2017 and realized she needed to do something about it. She sent the three kids to their Dad, got clean, and told the Tribune she hasn’t used for three years and has been clean for 10 of the last 15 years.

But she didn’t trust DCS or the lab they used, so she had a hair follicle test done on October 6. A week later it came back negative. By then DCS had already taken Lucy.

“Over the course of the nine months I took 32 tests. They were all negative for drugs. Two were considered positive because of a protein called Creatine was found in two of the samples,” she said.

West disputed the positive findings. She stopped taking CBD for two weeks and took her own test that was negative just a few days before DCS tested her again and they said she was positive. It should have been a moot point because West bought the CBD legally. It has a very small amount of THC in it. Not enough to get you high but enough to show up in a drug screen.

DCS didn’t care. They kept bringing it up over the next few months and Magistrate Carlton Lewis ordered West to take drug tests with Averhealth. She wasn’t taking drugs so slowly West made headway against DCS’s allegations.

Dr. Ann Charvat, West’s Mom, had custody of Lucy. She testified twice at hearings in Juvenile Court. Magistrate Lewis seemed intimidated by her.

Grandma Ann Charvat with Abby West and her four kids.

Charvat spent a career helping people, has a PhD in sociology, and has been an expert witness in more than 100 capital cases. She is no slouch and Charvat was Lucy’s grandmother. She was not in the least intimidated by Magistrate Lewis. Lewis fought with Charvat and at one point called her a liar. 

Given his hostility and obvious bias in favor of DCS, Lewis eventually recused himself in May 2021. On May 18, 2021 Lucy signed the divorce agreement in Circuit Court. 

In June, West filed a motion for unsupervised visitation in Juvenile Court so Charvat could go home to Illinois. Lassiter filed a joint discovery motion for West, Charvat, and himself in Davidson County Juvenile Court. Family law attorney and video vigilante Connie Reguli represented Charvat in the matter.

DCS wanted no part of Reguli. She would have cut them into a thousand pieces for repeatedly misleading West and Lassiter, running roughshod over them in four different courtrooms in two different counties, and all the while violating DCS protocols with impunity. DCS can dish it out but they can’t take it.

On July 1, 2021 DCS submitted a motion to Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway to non-suit the case. Calloway granted it. It meant DCS was throwing in the towel and Abby, Luke, and Lucy could finally go home. 

Family Law Attorney Connie Reguli with Lucy Lassiter.

In October 2021 West filed a civil rights complaint in federal district court against ten DCS employees, the MNPD, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and Averhealth, the lab-testing company.

Luke Lassiter’s DCS Case Had One Good Judge

Lassiter is appealing his DCS case in Hickman County.  He gets his son, Cullen, now 4, every other weekend. He wants him back fulltime. Cullen’s uncle, Grant Crawford, is willing to give Lassiter custody but DCS won’t let him and he can’t get his custody petition heard. Hickman County has just one Juvenile Court judge, Amy Puckett, and she has recused herself from the case.

Lassiter received notice from the Tennessee Supreme Court appointing Judge Douglas Chapman from Maury County to his case.  “So right now my custody petition is floating in the wind,” he said. 

The case started in November 2019 in Hickman County when Cullen’s maternal grandmother and his Mom’s brother, Grant Crawford, picked up 2-year-old Cullen from daycare while his Mom, Christina Crawford, was at work. They put him in foster care with DCS without talking to Cullen’s Mom or Dad. 

They had reason to take such drastic action. Crawford worked but she was a heroin addict. Lassiter had been out of the house for a year and Crawford didn’t let him see Cullen during that time.  

“They coerced us in court,” Lassiter said. Cullen’s grandmother didn’t want to become a foster parent. “If you don’t sign temporary legal custody over to Grant, he’ll be placed in a foster home and be lost in the system,” DCS attorney Keller Mizzell told Lassiter. 

Somebody in the gaggle of DCS workers gathered outside the courtroom pressuring Lassiter to sign added, “We are going to send him to some foster home, maybe in Memphis.” There’s nothing like a little race-baiting to put the fear of god into a reluctant defendant terrified by what might happen to his child.

DCS took Cullen because his hair follicle tested positive for heroin. But DCS can’t terminate parental rights unless both parents are convicted of severe abuse or neglect. Only Mom used heroin. Lassiter doesn’t. DCS knew that so they framed him for smoking pot while Christina was pregnant with Cullen three years before. They had no evidence but that didn’t stop DCS.

Christina and Cullen had tested positive for THC when he was born in 2017. DCS found the case unsubstantiated and closed it at the time. Three years later, DCS resurrected the “unsubstantiated” finding to file a new petition against Mom for severe abuse and neglect, this time naming Lassiter as a respondent. It was not about the Mom. She was out of the picture. It was about Lassiter.

Lassiter said he was never asked to take a drug test. “There were no allegations against me. Not a single one. But somehow now I’m guilty,” he said. 

“I’m a severe child abuser because my son’s Mom smoked a joint while she was pregnant and that’s the allegation I’m fighting in the Court of Appeals,” Lassiter said. 

If he ever gets there, it should be easy to show DCS decided he was guilty by association. Juvenile Court Judge Puckett let them get away with that. She forced Lassiter to agree to random drug screens in order to see Cullen every other weekend. They used the same tactic with West. It was unwarranted in both cases. 

Lucy Lassiter, Abby West, and Luke Lassiter, Halloween 2021.

“I’ve never failed one. I’ve passed very single drug screen they’ve given me, including a nail follicle test,” he said. Even so, DCS wouldn’t let Lassiter visit with Cullen until Circuit Court Judge Michael Spitzer found DCS in contempt. After that he got Cullen every other weekend, and still does.

All too often, however, judges let DCS get away with wrongfully taking children and treating parents with utter contempt. As we have reported, DCS has a presence in every Tennessee county. Judges either cooperate willingly or acquiesce because they are afraid to make waves. Judge Michael Spitzer is one judge who stood up to DCS bullying and found them in contempt.

When a judge holds a private citizen in contempt, they go to jail. When DCS gets found in contempt, they just shrug and keep on snatching babies and terrorizing families. (See https://tntribune.com/dcs-needs-a-major-overhaul/)

Join the Conversation

21 Comments

  1. Very succinct article concerning my family’s struggle to get Lucy free of DCS’ clutches…perhaps too succinct. The abuses mentioned were certainly egregious enough, and enough of them were mentioned to convey some of the agony Abby and Lucy endured. That’s not to mention what Luke and the rest of us (Abby’s dad, and especially her mom, who already had her hands full caring for her 90 year-old disable father in another state) were put through.

    The real tragedy, and agony of this started on the night of the abduction. Abby’s three older kids were all breast-fed, as was Lucy. In fact, in her short four weeks of life, Lucy had spent very scant time away from Abby’s embrace and nourishment. That ended through no fault of her own or Abby’s. Even when Dr. Charvat was able to claim custody of Lucy, her mother–who a few short weeks before had delivered her easily with no anesthesia–wasn’t allowed to be alone with her, sleep with her, or even nurse her. Nonetheless, she maintained her milk supply for weeks until the Department finally relented. Weeks later, she was allowed to spend the night in the apartment Charvat was donated by another angel volunteer couple (who deserve mention…but whose identities I can’t reveal without permission). No funds or any assistance was ever offered to Dr. Charvat for caring for Lucy for ten months. She had to turn to surrogates, including Abby’s dad, to travel to Illinois to spend weeks with her father while she cared for her granddaughter. Any appeals for relief of any kind were universally met with threats of Lucy’s seizure and placement into the foster-care system.

    DCS fought tooth and nail to entrap our daughter and her child, but ultimately, ten months later, without explanation, it was just…over. Lucy was returned to her mother and father. All suits and actions were dropped–‘nonsuited’ as they say. Dead stop. No apologies, explanations, accountability, or even acknowledgement, were ever offered for the agony and expense they caused.

    Yeah…maybe too succinct, but I could fill several articles the length of this one with similar official offenses during this lengthy, sordid episode. As documented by Ms. Reguli in the video linked above, to me this was the most heart-wrenching.

    Thank you, Mr. White for shedding some light on these and other abuses.

    1. I can’t get the idiots to do their job and clearly remove 2 Lil boys. 8 & 10. Never seen a school room or medical Dr. Since I hey we’re raped savagely as babies. 8 ur. Old is beaten ,locked in closet where he is made to live every day with alarm on door. He’s adhd and again so abused while the brother is babied and catered to. But both need removed. Only allowed soup to eat once daily. DCS is aware of this family and somehow always visits when no one home. They r there and DCD knows it but refuse to have imminent danger listed and somebody bust that drug door down. I have no tie to these boys so it’s all legit
      I just don’t know what will b salvaged for lil Eli if neglected and abuse allowed to cont

  2. Lost my great grandson and the father who is my grandson today because of DCFS. Baby because something might happen in the future. My grandson who is disabled IQ of 71 was forced out of my home, the legal guardian, to live on the streets and become a victim to a prostitution ring. My grandson was sentenced today to seven and a half years Federal Prison. Thank you d c f s.

  3. I had an atty give me ‘5 mins’ to ‘pick a child’ and I paid this atty cash, in full, before every court date, the full amt he asked for.

  4. I know of a very corrupt Dcbs as well. It’s sad, because it’s the children who get thrown around and put in worse situations.

  5. I know of a very corrupt Dcbs as well. It’s sad, because it’s the children who get thrown around and put in worse situations.

  6. This article is very one-sided, as if there was a existing bias before it was even written. What efforts were even made to cover the opposing side of the story?
    Also, you forgot to mention all of the disciplinary action, as well as criminal charges, conspiracy-theorist lawyer Connie Reguli is facing.

    1. Connie Reguli is not responsible for the reprehensible behavior of DCS employees. I have my own documented examples of DCS corruption and I have all of both sides to share. The corruption is systemic. Children are harmed at taxpayer expense.

  7. We have made every effort to get DCS’s side of the story. They refuse to talk to us or provide any information. Who are you? Would you like to be interviewed?

  8. Dfacs has taken my children 2 months old now was 4 days old before they took my now 2 year old that was then 10 monthsbold due to supposedly THC in his saliva and meth in his hair follicle. I had been in recovery for 19months on using meth but I smoked pit occasionally. The car worker said that was even fine, but they go n say this which it’s totally false. Then they accused my husband of failing for meth not along ago after a year of never failing one and never ever seeing what meth looked like. I’ve been thru 5 lawyer 2 of them paid and 9 supervisors and caseworkers and my transfer took 6 months to ever be transferred. I fighting them tooth and nail. They made me and my just married husband separate us divorce threatened me they would tpr me if I didnt. Me and my 4 day old was negative at the hospital they took him the day after we got out of hospital. Ive got proof every call txt email ever and I can’t get anyone to listen to me. Help me please.

  9. I was there are 10 pm at night in the Wendy’s parking lot. Had I not already been arrested for defending a client against the power mongering DCS, I would have just said “no” or told Ms. Abby to just say “no, you can’t have my baby”. What the story cannot cover is how attorney’s are terrorized and punished for standing up against this tyranny. When you watch the video, and I hope you do, understand that I did not willingly allow DCS Worker White to steal 4 week old Lucy, a perfectly healthy baby. If we do not stop DCS – it will be your child or your neighbors child or your grandchild. Join me in this fight. Watch Connie Reguli on Youtube or watch the Family Forward Project on Facebook.

  10. Well this kind of abuse by DCF is no surprise to me we live in Kentucky my son had a girlfriend who had his baby and he had to go to Afghanistan in the army all he was gone the mother got on drugs and was taking his check that he was making from being overseas and spending it on drugs so I canceled the bank account so she cannot get to the funds this made her mad she moved out of my home and in with her aunt while she was at the aunt’s house can’t decided she was too addicted to drugs to try to care for the baby I tried to apply to get my grandson did GCF worker said because my son was not married even though he was in the labor room he signed the document saying it was his son because he wasn’t married and there was no blood test DNA I had no grandparents rights, and we would have to wait until my son come back from Afghanistan which was a lengthy process to get done the time he made it back stateside the aunt she was living with who was a woman gave the child to a Mormon family in Utah this pretty much broke my son he seemed crazy things during the war that we weren’t supposed to be fighting then come home to find out he lost his son so now my son gets on drugs and my grandson is way across the country and I have not seen him since he was a year old when all this transpired he is 11 now I just pray did I live long enough for him to become an adult so that we can meet again. But the point is if the DCF worker wasn’t so gun Whole about giving my grandson to complete strangers maybe you know doing what was right for the child and the parent instead of what was whatever that woman had in her mind which by the way I had spoken to never had a child have no clues what it takes to raise a child how in the world can they judge parents I don’t think they train their DCF workers completely enough and I don’t think they work hard enough to keep families together more often not they are poor and families apart and breaking hearts.
    Even my son was 13 years old he started acting up I was a single mother I met a lady she told me oh if you have any problems just call us we’ll help so I did their help was I took my son out of my home and put him in foster care and did an investigation it was found that my home was fit neglect charges were unfounded I just had a hormonal teenager but because the judge decided she did not like my other son she left him in foster care until time ran out and if she would have left him there any longer the state would have to pay not me because I wasn’t found incompetent or unfit and then and only then was when she allowed my son to come home so that was pretty traumatic for my boy who spent over 4 months and foster care for no reason. They need a new system the one that they got is broken does not work like most of our government offices. If they’re moving at all it’s backwards upside down and sideways our whole system needs to be redone from protection of children to every other program.

  11. I know very well how corrupt DCS is.. My husband passed away from cancer 4yrs ago he wasn’t even gone a full 2 weeks before a family member started calling Dcs every week with false allegations finally 8 months later Oct 2018 they got what they wanted and took my 3 teenage kids. My husband and I smoked weed while he was sick and after he passed I didn’t smoke anymore but forgot he still had some in his dresser I grounded my oldest son at the time who had just turned 16 from driving his dad’s truck because he wouldn’t clean his nasty room and take care of 2 puppies he brought home without my knowledge so I took his truck keys away until he done what I told him to. While I was at work he went in my room looking for the keys found the weed in his dad’s dresser took a Pic and sent it to the family member next day DCS showed up with the police showed me the Pic and I cooperated with everything they asked and they took my babies that day.. fast forward from Oct 2018 to Dec 2018 I completed and done everything dcs and the court asked me to do trying to get my babies back home before Christmas but it never happened a family friend is who I called to take my kids as the temp legal custodian and 2yrs ago the friend gave the family member a power of attorney which ended up having my 2 younger kids get taken to Florida and I can’t tell you how many times I have been to court for it to just keep being put off since they have been in Florida if I talk to them I have to be on speaker phone with the family member in the background making it difficult to even have a conversation I haven’t received any pictures of them at all and the family member has done nothing but fill their heads with lies about me recently the judge relinquished jurisdiction to Florida court and left it up to the court down there to lift my unsupervised visitation of which they would not even though I completed everything they asked. My daughter is going to be 18 this week and my youngest is 16 but I have to be supervised if I want to talk to them or see them by the family member. I’ve always been a good mom my kids have never been without anything they have had everything 4wheelers pool every gaming console computers you can imagine name brand clothes shoes ect.. they have never had a spanking in their life or anything and I’ve had to miss out on the most important times of their lives it was hard enough losing my husband of 20yrs but then losing my babies too.. I’ve had my same job almost 7yrs I still live in and pay a mortgage on our house they grew up in for 15yrs now but I’m made out to be some horrible parent by dcs that I never was. No parent should ever have to go through what I have and no child so have to go through what mine did and the sad thing about it all is if my kids didn’t have social security money attached to them from their dad passing away none of this would have happened in the first place

  12. Thank you very much for this article. DCS needs to be held accountable. I am relieved that more and more light is being shined on the atrocities committed by DCS. I am also very thankful for TN family advocate and warrior Connie Reguli and her relentless fight to expose this industry for what it is.
    My concern is for the poor and disenfranchised families that live in Rural TN or don’t have the funds to hire such a thorough attorney. They get stuck with newly graduated attorneys that work out of the trunk of their car who survive completely off the case appointments from the county’s juvenile judge. Of course the appointed attorney is going to go along with the flow and “business as usual” careful not to ripple the waters because what motive do they have to fight for these families rights and due process? No incentive for these new attorneys, but their is a big incentive to just go along with dcs recommendations, not challenge them to avoid anyones schedules to be backed up or lunch to be late. Also these appointed attorneys spend like 10 mins with parents in the juvenile court lobby right before going into the court room. Thats it! Tell me how parents are getting proper representation? They are not! They might as well not appoint attorneys because it is just a facade put in place to give The illusion that parents have representation and due process is being given. I also want to remind our community that being poor does not equal neglect.

  13. I agree with Laura. Very one sided. All too often, DCBS – CPS is blamed for things. Imagine if parents simply did the correct things. Not use drugs, not neglect, abuse their children. That’s where it starts. DCBS – CPS doesn’t just magically appear for zero reason and remove children. Parents that make mistakes, own up to them, take steps to fix it, they deserve a second chance. Parents that blame DCBS – CPS, refuse to fix things, they aren’t responsible or mature enough to have children in their homes. Truth hurts sometimes.

    1. Imagine if they did all the right things…but still ended up in DCS crosshairs. It happens more often than you think, and once it starts it’s extremely difficult to get out.

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