11-Year-Old to Sue Officials in 3 States Over '92 Abduction
Girl Claims Agencies Negligent in Letting Molester Strike Again
An 11-year-old Coeur d’Alene girl kidnapped and molested by a convicted pedophile in 1992 plans to file a lawsuit today against police and probation officers in three states.
The lawsuit, expected to be filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane, also names her abductor, Richard John Tarver.
Amber Kern was 9 when Tarver took her from a Spokane Valley mobile home park, drove her to Salt Lake City and molested her along the way.
The federal suit alleges the Coeur d'Alene Police Department and one of its sergeants, Darryl Cutler, were negligent and precipitated the kidnapping.
Tarver’s two-day run with Amber, which followed a 14-year criminal odyssey through five states, ended April 24, 1992.
Amber and her mother, Debra Kern, who now live in Coeur d’Alene, have asked that Amber’s name be published to put a face on child sexual abuse.
Seattle attorneys Susan Machler and Bill Marler, who represent Amber, blame law officials and the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho for not supervising Tarver, 36.
Court records indicate he was passed from state to state, including Idaho, where a judge said he didn’t want the state to bear the financial burden.
Both attorneys re scheduled to fly to Spokane today to file the lawsuit, which seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
Marler helped win money for the families of child-killer Westley Allan Dodd’s victims.
But any money will be little solace, Amber said.
“Even if I get money from it, I don’t think it will take away my pain and keep others from doing this,” said the hardened sixth-grader.
Holding back tears, her mother added: “That man wrecked her life. He ripped her insides out. He destroyed her childhood and he tore our family apart.”
Tarver is serving a 14-year sentence at a federal prison in Indiana for Amber’s abduction.
If released in the year 2007, his earliest chance, Tarver must report to the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise for molesting an 11-year-old Coeur d’Alene boy three months be-fore Amber.
Tarver’s earliest Idaho parole date is April 12, 2011, when he will be 53 years old. The state Parole Commission could leave him in prison for life.
The suit alleges negligence and civil rights violations against the state of Idaho, the city of Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Cutler, Washington state, Oregon, three Western Washington community corrections officers, an Oregon officer, and up to 10 more people whose identities will be detailed before trial.
“That’s news to me. So be it,” Cutler said, referring questions to Capt. Carl Bergh.
Bergh said city policy prohibits comment on pending lawsuits.
The lawyers contend Cutler caused Amber’s kidnapping by telephoning Tarver – a suspect in the boy’s molestation – and asking him to come in for questions.
Marler said the police should have confronted Tarver and held him for questioning, particularly since he was convicted in 1986 of sexually abusing his own 13-year-old brother.
“I’ve talked to several police officers, and they can’t believe this happened,” Marler said.
On April 15, 1992, a Coeur d’Alene mother and son told city police that Tarver, who lived with them, had molested the boy three times in early 1992.
Police waited five days to investigate, according to police records. Then Cutler called Tarver and arranged an interview.
Tarver bolted with Amber, stopping at several motels to molest her on the way to Utah. The FBI arrested him after a seven-hour standoff.
Amber still has flashbacks, yells at her mother and abandoned therapy this year, unable to detail the sexual abuse with a counselor.
“She has so much anger inside of her,” said Debra Kern, who is considering moving Amber to The Dalles, Ore., to be with family. “I want these people held accountable for what they’ve done.”
Over 14 years and with at least seven aliases, Tarver played cat and mouse with authorities despite his striking appearance – 6 feet 9 inches tall and 165 pounds.
In 1985, he escaped from an Oregon prison while on a work release program, court records indicate. But Oregon prison officials said they have no record of the escape.
Instead, their records show Tarver was incarcerated in Oregon at the same time Snohomish County, Wash., charged him with molesting his brother.
Tarver also has convictions for car theft, armed robbery, attempting to illegally obtain welfare, and stealing $37,500 from a Seattle girlfriend and buying favors from strippers.
Gary Dahl, a probation officer in Marion County, Ore., said Tarver was brought back to Oregon in late 1991 for leaving the state without permission.
But because Tarver was living in Coeur d’Alene and had no Oregon ties, Dahl, who is named in the lawsuit, allowed him to board a bus back to Idaho and report to authorities there.
“What can I say? We try to send people to where they have the best chance of making it,” Dahl said.
Snohomish County community corrections officer Michael Goldberg said Tarver was his only Spokane parolee.
He said Tarver had no special conditions on his release because of a 1983 state law de-signed to ease prison overcrowding and unclog court dockets of probation violations.
“I never met the guy. We didn’t have any authority over him. He could go out and kill somebody or kidnap somebody and we could do nothing about it,” Goldberg said.