PORTLAND, Ore. – The mother of Kyron Horman, the young boy who vanished two years ago, filed a lawsuit against the boy’s stepmother on Friday claiming that she is “responsible for the disappearance of Kyron.”
In the lawsuit, Desiree Young directly asserts that Terri Horman kidnapped Kyron. The suit also claims Horman “intentionally interfered with [Young’s] parental rights and that Terri Horman intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress.”
The suit goes on to say that Young “seeks the return of her son and seeks compensatory damages.”
Terri Horman was the last person known to see Kyron alive at Skyline School on June 4, 2010. She has long been the focus of the investigation into his whereabouts, although she has never been formally named a criminal suspect.
After filing the lawsuit, Young held a news conference where she fought back tears. | Watch the news conference
"I haven't been able to see my son, hug him, kiss him or tuck him into bed," she said. "I hope that I'm wrong but I fear that he is gone forever. I believe Terri Horman knows where Kyron is."
Terri Horman's lawyer Stephen Houze issued a short statement saying he would not comment until after he had the chance to "thoroughly review" the complaint.
Nobody answered the door at Horman's house in Roseburg, Ore.
While there is still an open criminal investigation into Kyron’s disappearance, this suit is separate from any potential criminal charges.
In the suit, Young’s lawyers wrote that Terri Horman “feigned ignorance of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance” and “lied to investigating authorities and to the media regarding her activities on June 4, 2010.”
Young is seeking $10 million in damages from Horman.
She said she doesn't plan to keep any money she might win from the suit. Rather, she plans to donate it to families in similar situations with missing children.
"I don't want Terri's money," she said. "I want Terri to face justice."
Meanwhile Kaine Horman, Kyron's father and Young's ex-husband, said as long as the lawsuit doesn't interfere with the criminal investigation he supports it.
"I think all the boundaries are set appropriately and not crossed," he said. "Everyone's goal, regardless of which case, is to bring him home as quickly as possible."
Civil versus criminal case
Civil lawsuits involve a lower burden of proof to be found guilty than criminal indictments.
In a criminal case a defendant must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, in a civil case a defendant must only be found guilty based on a "preponderance of evidence."
"I explain to people as if you have a scale and drop one grain of sand on the scale, that's all you have to show for preponderance of the evidence. So it's a very low standard," family law attorney Drew Bobzien told KATU on Thursday. Bobzien is not involved with the Young lawsuit.
Young's lawyer, Elden Rosenthal, said he intends to use subpoena power to uncover new evidence about the case, including e-mails and text messages.
"There are tools available to me that will allow us to peel away the mystery surrounding Kyron's disappearance," he said.
Horman would likely be able to avoid testifying. Because the possibility of a criminal trial still exists, she would be able to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against incriminating herself.
Even if Horman exercises that right, Young said "we still will prove the case."
Rosenthal and his team will have to prove that Horman took Kyron with the intent to hold him “permanently or for a protracted period.”
According to legal analyst Bruce McCain, who has closely been following the Kyron case, the suit will be “near impossible to prove, especially when an element of second degree custodial interference is that Terri acted with the intent to hold Kyron permanently of for a protracted period of time.”