Robert A. Hirschfeld #010003
4723 N. 44th St.
Phoenix AZ 85018
Attorney for Respondent BENJAMIN FLEMING
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA
IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF MARICOPA
IMA STEPHENS LENTON, fka )
IMA JEAN FLEMING, ) No. DR 240615 SE
Petitioner, ) FINDINGS OF FACT
-v- ) CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING, ) ORDER AND JUDGMENT
) (Hon. Linda Scott)
The Court on October 17, 1986 heard oral evidence,
received exhibits, and considered the pleadings
before it in the above captioned matter. Because it is
possible that enforcement of this Order and Judgment may
assume interstate or international dimensions, the Court
sets forth the following procedural overview, findings of
fact and conclusions of law to assist and advise the
courts and authorities of any jurisdiction in which the
minor children may be found.
The parties were married on September 7, 1976. Of this
marriage, SARAH AMARYLLIS FLEMING was born June 1, 1977,
and JOSEPH ALEXANDER FLEMING was born September 25, 1979.
A Separation Agreement was signed on January 24, 1983, in
Henderson County, North Carolina, which provided, inter
alia for the Mother to have sole custody of both children,
for the Father to pay child support, and for the Father's
specified visitation rights. A Judgment of Absolute
Divorce was entered in the General Court of Justice,
District Court Div., File. 82 CVD 1027, Henderson County,
North Carolina, on January 27, 1983 which mentioned the
Separation Agreement; it is unclear as to whether said
Judgment gave force to said Agreement.
The Mother is apparently educated as a schoolteacher; the
Father is employed by the United States Navy Shipyard at
Charleston, South Carolina as a machinist.
The Father has alleged that his very first specified
visitation was thwarted by the Mother's abrupt and
unannounced removal of herself and the children from North
Carolina, ultimately to Washington County, Arkansas.
After a protracted visitation dispute lasting several years,
the Father sought intercession of the Washington County,
Arkansas, Chancery Court. On December 20, 1985, the Hon.
John Lineberger, Washington County, Arkansas, Chancery Judge
entered a Decree, No. E-85-1634, affirmatively awarding Sole
Custody of both children to the Mother.
The Arkansas Decree provided that the children visit the
Father from December 20, 1985 through January 11, 1986, and
further that they spend 8 weeks each summer with him,
beginning the summer of 1986.
The Arkansas Decree further provided for full disclosure of
the children's residence and telephone number at all times,
that the parties shall refer to the children by their legal
names (FLEMING), and that the parties be permanently
enjoined from removing the children from the United States,
or from the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Court without that
The Christmas, 1985 visitation took place as required; soon
thereafter, the Mother appears to have without authorization
removed the children to England, where she married Alan
Lenton, a British national.
On or about April 15, 1986, the Mother, the children and Mr.
Lenton relocated to Mesa, Arizon. The children were enrolled
by the Mother in the Mesa School District under the surname
This Court's assumption of jurisdiction was precipitated by
Petitioner IMA STEPHENS LENTON's (hereinafter "Mother")
filing on May 30, 1986 her Petition for Order to Show Cause
for Modification or Curtailment of Visitation Rights. The
Mother Domesticated in this Court the Decree entered
December 20, 1985 by the Chancery Court, Washington County,
Arkansas, affirmatively alleging that this Court has
jurisdiction to modify said Decree.
The Mother's asserted basis for modifying or curtailing
Respondent's (hereinafter "Father") visitation rights was
alleged sexual molestation by the Father of the minor child
SARAH AMARYLLIS LENTON. The allegation of molestation
prompted substantial investigations by the Mesa Police, by
Navy Intelligence Services and Navy Family Services. The
respective Mesa Police and Navy Investigations have been
closed. Based on their findings, said authorities have
declined to initiate prosecution of the Father.
The Father's response vigorously denied any molestation,
affirmatively asserted that the Mother has chronically
denied the Father access to the minor children and that she
has through such denials and mental manipulation of the
children sought to destroy their relationship with their
Father. Consequently, the Father sought, and this Court now
awards to the Father, sole custody of SARAH AMARYLLIS
FLEMING and JOSEPH ALEXANDER FLEMING.
As part of his responsive pleadings, the Father sought, and
this Court granted a ne exeat Temporary Restraining Order,
prohibiting the Mother from removing the minor children from
the jurisdiction of this Court. Counsel for the parties
stipulated orally before the Court, and it was this Court's
intent, that said Temporary Restraining Order be extended,
pendente lite until at least the hearing on Order to Show
The Mother was personally served with the responsive
pleadings, including the said Temporary Restraining Order.
As averred by the Mother's counsel, there is reason to
believe that after such service, and prior to the October
17, 1986 hearing, the Mother fled with the children again to
Voluminous exhibits were provided the Court by the Father in
support of the threshold decision of September 29, 1986.
Although not all of those exhibits were taken into evidence
at the October 17, 1986 hearing, the Court notes that they
included affidavits; copies of the Mesa Police Report
(DR 86-48361) regarding the alleged molestation incidents;
the Mesa Police Videotape and transcript of the Police interview
of the child SARAH; a number of manuscript original letters
alleged to be in the Mother's hand and containing vituperative
statements about the Father and his present wife THORAYA FLEMING;
and reports by Psychiatrist Otto Bendheim, M.D. concerning Dr.
Bendheim's examinations of the child SARAH and of the Mother.
Based upon the presented documents the Court found on
September 29, 1986 that adequate cause has been established
to set a hearing on Respondent's Petition for Modification
of Custody, and further found that there is reason to
believe that the children's present environment may endanger
their physical, mental or emotional health.
The proceedings at the October 17, 1986 hearing were briefly
Petitioner-Mother IMA STEPHENS LENTON was not present, but
was represented by her counsel, Evans Farnsworth.
Respondent-Father BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING was present,
represented by his counsel, Robert Hirschfeld.
By stipulation, sworn telephonic testimony via the Judge
Advocate General's Office in Charleston, South Carolina was
taken from Naval Intelligence Special Agent Clayton Jones
and Navy Family Services Supervisor M. Elizabeth Ralston,
regarding their participation in the Navy's investigation of
the molestation charges. Both witnesses supported the
findings in Navy Intelligence investigation 03-June-86-06WS-
0059-8BNA, to the effect that no molestation had taken
The Petitioner-Mother's Petition to restrict the Respondent-
Father's visitation was then withdrawn upon voluntary
request of Petitioner's counsel.
Upon stipulation of Counsel, evidence regarding Polygraph
tests of both parties was presented by expert Polygrapher
Manuel Valenzuela. Mr. Valenzuela stated that the Mother had
shown "no deception" in her answers denying that she had
overtly coached the child SARAH to make the molestation
allegation; further that the Mother had also shown "no
deception" in denying that she had overtly denied visitation
to the Father. Mr. Valenzuela testified as to the possible
effects of mental illness on Polygraph reliability.
Regarding his testing of the Father, Mr. Valenzuela presented
testimony which corroborated results of an independent Navy
Polygraph examination, to the effect that the Father showed
"no deception" in denying the allegations of vaginal penetration
or of seeking oral-genital contact with the child SARAH.
The Mother's present husband, Charles Alan Lenton,
subpoenaed by the Father, testified as to his brief
acquaintance with the Mother and the children; that the
children were not "afraid of their Father"; and as to the
behavior and demeanor of the Mother since January, 1986. Mr.
Lenton stated his belief that the Mother was in England with
the children, after having abruptly separated from Mr.
Lenton and having led him to believe she and the children
were going on a brief visit to the State of Washington. Mr.
Lenton also testified about monies mysteriously missing from
an Arizona checking account held jointly by himself and the
Mr. Lenton identified the Mother's handwriting on the
Father's letter- envelopes to the children, submitted as
exhibits, said handwriting directing return by the post
office as undeliverable. Mr. Lenton further testified that
the children did reside at the Mesa, Arizona address on said
envelopes at the time of return.
Private Investigator Dayna Linton testified as an expert
witness on false allegations of child molestation, as to her
analysis of the Mesa Police videotaped interview of the
child SARAH, and as to the frequency of tactical molestation
allegations in Domestic Relations Custody disputes.
Testimony was taken from THORAYA FLEMING, present wife of
Respondent BENJAMIN FLEMING, as to her direct experience
with the children, and as to a campaign of harassment and
vilification against her by the Mother, IMA LENTON.
Finally, extensive testimony was presented by the Father as
to his relationship with the children, his direct
experiences with erratic, destructive or vindictive behavior
of the Mother, her persistent denial to the children of
their access to their Father, the history and future
likelihood of the Mother's disobeying Court Orders, and as
to the trauma suffered by him as a result of the molestation
Mr. Fleming identified the Mother's handwriting on several
letters to him, which letters were admitted into evidence.
Among the statements alleged to have been written by the
Mother in said letters were that the father would never or
should never see the children again, a threat that the
children would be told untruthfully that their Father had
died, vituperations concerning the Father's attempts to
communicate with and give gifts to the children, and various
vilifications directed against BENJAMIN FLEMING and THORAYA
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Petitioner-Mother IMA STEPHENS LENTON submitted
herself to the jurisdiction of this Court by appearing,
seeking relief, and domesticating the prior Decree E 85-
1634 Chancery Court, Washington County, Arkansas dated
2. IMA STEPHENS LENTON was personally, regularly served with
Respondent's initial responsive pleadings, his Petition for
Modification of Custody, and the Temporary Restraining Order
of this Court prohibiting her from removing the children
from this jurisdiction. Petitioner is represented by
Counsel, and has had full Notice and Opportunity to Appear
2. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the Uniform Child
Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), ARS 8-401 et.seq.
regarding the custody of the minor children SARAH AMARYLLIS
FLEMING and ALEXANDER JOSEPH FLEMING on at least one of the
2a. None of the Parties reside in Arkansas;
2b. This State is the domicile of the minor children
notwithstanding their apparent recent unauthorized removal;
2c. It is in the best interests of the minor children that a
Court of this State assume jurisdiction because the
children and Petitioner-Mother have a significant connection
with this State and there is substantial evidence in this
State concerning the children's present or future care,
protection, training and personal relationships;
2d. The children were physically present in the state at the
time of initial filing , and emergency jurisdiction would be
proper in consideration of the apparent mental mistreatment
or emotional abuse inflicted upon them by the Petitioner-
Mother. By herself alleging emergency in her initial moving
papers herein, the Mother is estopped from denying same;
2e. Proper communication has been made pursuant to ARS 8-401
et.seq., between this Court and the Hon. John Lineberger,
Chancery Judge, Washington County Arkansas. The Arkansas
Court has affirmatively relinquished jurisdiction to this
3. Based upon the Court's evaluation of all the evidence
presented, the Court finds that the allegations of sexual
molestation upon which Petitioner sought herein to modify,
suspend or terminate Respondent's visitation rights are
4. It is extremely detrimental emotionally to have a child
believing that she has to take sides to the point where she
would relate to authorities a false sexual abuse charge. The
Court has not determined the extent, if any, to which the
Mother may have actively caused SARAH AMARYLLIS FLEMING to
make up the story. It is possible that MRS. LENTON
indirectly caused the false allegation through her attitude
and the pressure she placed upon SARAH. It is clear,
however, that the children are subjected, in their Mother's
custody, to an emotionally unhealthy situation which, if
custody were unaltered, would persist.
5. The Court finds that Petitioner IMA STEPHENS LENTON's
continued physical possession and custody of the children
may endanger their physical, mental or emotional health;
6. IMA STEPHENS LENTON has denied visitation to the Father,
BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING, knowingly, intentionally and
purposefully. An important factor in determining Custody
under ARS 25-332(A)(6) is "Which parent is more likely to
allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the
non-custodial parent." The Court finds that IMA STEPHENS
LENTON is intent on denying BENJAMIN FLEMING visitation, and
will violate Court Orders, if permitted to retain Custody,
in furtherance of her apparent intent that the Father's
visitation not occur. BENJAMIN FLEMING, as sole custodian,
is more likely to allow the Mother visitation and
significant contact than was allowed by the Mother in the
past, or would be by her in the future.
7. It is in the best interests of the minor children SARAH
AMARYLLIS FLEMING and ALEXANDER JOSEPH FLEMING that their
sole custody be transferred forthwith from Petitioner IMA
STEPHENS LENTON to Respondent BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING;
8. The attorney fees and costs incurred by Respondent
BENJAMIN FLEMING herein arise from the misconduct of
Petitioner IMA STEPHENS LENTON. Petitioner's claim for
modification or curtailment of Respondent's visitation
constitutes harassment, is groundless and not made in good
faith. Petitioner allowed said claim to continue in
litigation although she knew or should have known that the
claim was without substantial justification. The Petitioner
is educated as a schoolteacher and has the ability to pay
Respondent's attorney fees and costs.
9. The children appear to be bonded to both parents; and
both parents should have frequent and continuing contact
with the children. However, the Court finds that the Mother
has a history of absconding from Court jurisdictions with
the children, and is likely to use unsupervised visitation
as an opportunity to repeat such flight.
ORDER AND JUDGMENT
THEREFORE, Good Cause Appearing, it is hereby ORDERED and
A. Respondent BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING is awarded sole
custody and physical possession of the minor children SARAH
AMARYLLIS FLEMING and ALEXANDER JOSEPH FLEMING nunc pro tunc
as of 4:30 PM, Mountain Standard Time, October 17, 1986;
B. Respondent BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING's obligation to pay
child support for the minor children SARAH AMARYLLIS FLEMING
and ALEXANDER JOSEPH FLEMING is hereby terminated;
C. Petitioner IMA STEPHENS LENTON shall be permitted
visitation with the minor children SARAH AMARYLLIS FLEMING
and ALEXANDER JOSEPH FLEMING only under supervised
conditions as may be mutually stipulated in writing by the
Parties or their Arizona counsel; if no stipulation can be
reached, further Order of this Court may be sought;
D. Petitioner IMA STEPHENS LENTON shall pay to Respondent
BENJAMIN NATHAN FLEMING the entirety of his Attorney Fees
and Costs arising in this action, including those of his
Arizona Counsel Robert Hirschfeld and his Arkansas Counsel
Mima Wallace. Said Counsel shall prepare and submit to this
Court within thirty days of the date hereof, an accounting
and form of Judgment for Attorney Fees and Costs.
E. The Superior Court, Maricopa County Arizona,
affirmatively asserts exclusive continuing jurisdiction over
the minor children SARAH AMARYLLIS FLEMING and ALEXANDER
JOSEPH FLEMING until their respective majority or until
otherwise Ordered by this Court, and requests all
governmental agencies and officers in any jurisdiction,
within or outside the United States, wherein said minor
children may be found, to assist in the implementation and
enforcement of this Order;
DATED: October 28, 1986
The. Hon. Linda Scott
Judge, Superior Court
Maricopa County, Arizona
Southeast Judicial Dist.
1837 S. Mesa Dr.
Mesa AZ 85202
NOTE: Mrs. Lenton remained in hiding with the children
despite the above order, until she was traced through her
driver's license and apprehended in February 1988, at Bay
City Michigan. She was arrested on several counts there of
passing bad checks. While she was being held, Benjamin
Fleming flew to Michigan to retrieve the children who were
now in his legal custody. Upon arrival, he found that Mrs.
Lenton had again falsely accused him of sexual molestation.
After a Michigan court hearing, in which the above explicit
Order and findings of Judge Scott were considered, the
children were freely released to Ben Fleming. They have
resided with him ever since. The above case illustrates how
a false accusation of child abuse can backfire against the
accuser. Attorney Hirschfeld and private investigator Dayna
Linton, both mentioned in the above order, are members of
the Board of Directors of the National Congress for Men.