Judge Returns Custody of Justina Pelletier to Her Parents


On Tuesday a Massachusetts juvenile court judge ordered the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to return custody of Justina Pelletier to her parents. 

“I find that the parties have shown by credible evidence that circumstances have changed since the adjudication on Dec. 20, 2013, that Justina is a child in need of care and protection pursuant to G.L. c. 199, 24-26.,” Judge Joseph Johnston wrote in the ruling. “Effective Wednesday, June 18, 2014, this care and protection petition is dismissed and custody of Justina is returned to her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier.”

In the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families since February 2013, the Connecticut teen spent most of last year at Boston Children’s Hospital, where her parents had taken her for flu-like symptoms. Doctors there disagreed with her Tufts Medical Center doctors who had diagnosed her with mitochondrial disease in 2011 and instead said her symptoms were caused by somatoform disorder, a mental disorder. Doctors reported to Massachusetts Department of Children and Families that they suspected medical abuse and the state refused to release Justina to her parents, setting off the 16-month ordeal for the Pelletier family.

Justina's release came days after a video was released showing the teenager begging to return to her family.

The Courant reported Justina's parents' responses upon learning of their daughter's impending release:

Justina's mother, Linda Pelletier, who has been staying in a hotel near the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Thompson where their daughter is being held, got a call from the facility's director around 3:45 p.m., Lou Pelletier said. The director told her that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had received word that custody of Justina would return to her family, he said.

Pelletier said Justina called him from his wife's cell phone and was "screaming" with happiness.

"Right now it's 'Get her home, get the healing going,' then we'll deal with the people who put Justina in this horrific physical condition," Pelletier said.

Matt Staver from the Liberty Council filed a motion on May 30 saying that the family had complied with the terms of a reunification plan issued by John W. Polanowicz, the Massachusetts secretary of Health and Human Services. Staver released a statement on Tuesday saying, “We are thrilled that Justina will finally be returning home.” He added, “The family looks forward to putting this 16-month nightmare behind them. Justina and her family now begin the process of healing both physically, emotionally, and spiritually."