Woman charged with parental kidnapping in contentious Macomb County child-custody case – Macomb Daily
A woman who five years ago moved her children to Oklahoma with court approval faces a felony parental-kidnapping charge after she was accused of preventing the children’s dad from visiting them for two years.
Lisa Bender, formerly Lisa Gusler, was arranged last month in 42-II District Court in New Baltimore on the allegation she didn’t allow the children’s father, Corwin Gusler, to see the children for the last two of five years she lived in Tulsa , ok. She was freed after posting 10% of a $5,000 bond.
Parental kidnapping is punishable by up to one year and one day in prison.
Bender’s attorney, Regina Triplett, who has been a criminal defense attorney for 18 years, called the criminal charge against Bender “bizarre.”
“I don’t think in all my years as an attorney that I’ve seen parental kidnapping charged under these types of circumstances,” Triplett said. “The most bizarre part is your having a Michigan county judge that gave her permission to move out of state.”
She said she could not yet comment further on the case because she has not received all of the evidentiary information.
In 2017, Bender gained approval of an Oscoda County judge to move the children, now 14 and 16, with her to Oklahoma, where most of Bender’s family resides. She’s accused of preventing Gusler’s access from spring 2020 until last June.
Macomb County Circuit Judge Rachel Rancilio, who now presides over the former couple’s child-custody case, said in court Monday the criminal charge was brought to force Bender to come to Michigan. The case was brought by New Baltimore police and charged by county prosecutors.
Bender, 38, said in an interview the children did not want to see their dad. She noted that Gusler, 45, was accused of assaulting his girlfriend in June 2020. He was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm and domestic violence. Gusler waived the right to a preliminary examination, and the case was bound over by Judge Jacob Femminineo to Macomb County Circuit Court, but the case is not public in circuit court. Bender said she believes he received deferred sentencing under which the case gets removed from the public record.
Gusler in an interview denied he committed assault.
Bender blamed Gusler for not cooperating to visit the children when they were Oklahoma; she said they had an agreement to split transportation costs.
But Gusler retorted he tried to see them. He flew to Oklahoma last February to visit the children, and Bender and the children were gone.
In the child-custody case, Bender and Gusler appeared remotely over Zoom in Macomb Circuit Court on Monday for a review hearing and to try to resolve the child-custody arrangement going forward. Bender said she appeared from a Michigan location but is allowed to leave the state to go to Oklahoma, where she resides.
Gusler has had custody of the children, aged 14 and 16, in recent weeks under a temporary order from Judge Rachel Rancilio to make up for Gusler’s lost visitation time.
That time has been mitigated, and Bender wants the children back with her so they can return to their Tulsa high school. But that will be difficult to achieve since school there starts Aug. 17, and Rancilio ordered an investigation by the Friend of the Court that will be difficult to complete in time despite her making it an expedited order.
Bender’s attorney, Bert Whitehead IV, said uprooting the children from Oklahoma would negatively impact them because they have been attending the same school system for the past five years.
“Their entire community is there,” Whitehead said.
Gusler wants physical custody in New Baltimore for the school year, said his attorney, George Drosis.
Gusler said his children are better off under his care.
“I am looking out for the best interests of my children,” he said.
Rancilio noted Bender created this problem with her own actions and that Bender has lost her trust. Bender was held in civil contempt of court and spent a few hours in a court holding cell after she told the judge the children were in Michigan when in fact they were just across the border in Toledo.
Drosis said Bender doesn’t deserve the children back at this time, saying she has “bold-face lied” to the judge and has a history of “disregarding orders” and “taunting” his client.
“She has thumbed her nose at the court,” Gusler said.
Drosis said he has “significant concerns” that Bender won’t comply with court orders in the future once the children return to Oklahoma.
But Whitehead emphasized to the judge that she needs to learn the wishes of the children.
“I think you’ll find the children do not want to live with their father no matter what he (Gusler) says,” Whitehead told Rancilio.
Gusler responded: “She had them for two years to brain wash them.”
Drosis said, “There was initially a little friction with the kids (upon their living with Gusler in June), but I think things have settled down. Dad is really grateful to have parenting time.”
Whitehead agreed with Rancilio’s comment that it is “important” for the children to have a relationship with their father.
Bender also was charged with civil contempt of court for her failure to follow court orders. She is free on a $10,000 personal bond.
An FOC investigation will include psychological evaluations of both parents, the judge said.