Transferring assets

Two teens are shuttled back and forth across the country as their mother and father (belatedly) fight over who gets to keep them

By all indications, Jim believed his children were headed on a collision course with reality, that they were going to emerge as spoiled adults who weren't equipped with the fundamentals -- academically or otherwise -- to cope with life. Their mother had them in and out of several schools. But at the same time he was protesting their lagging grades and raising the issue of summer school, he took them on a grand summer trip to Africa. That was followed by a Labor Day trip with their father to Nantucket.

If it seemed like the uneasy relationship might be working out, the worst was to come -- all within the next few weeks.

Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
David Hollenbach
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.

In late September, a cluster of attorneys arrived in family court with the most urgent of appeals. According to Jim Crane, he was shocked to learn on September 10 that the kids had been withdrawn from their Colorado school because they were relocating to California. He says he came to Boulder to find out what was happening, but the family refused to meet with him or discuss the move.

He told of having to hire a private investigator to track the family to Malibu. "Both children find themselves in an unstable and erratic environment," his court documents stated. They had no permanent home, a lack of proper care and bad grades, he protested. He felt like they were in imminent danger.

What Theresa Crane felt apparently didn't matter. His attorneys had rounded up her last known local lawyer, Sheryl Johnson, and brought her to the emergency hearing. In fact, Johnson had withdrawn months earlier and knew nothing of the current situation.

The case file was in disarray and showed no notice that Johnson was off the case. And the judges had moved on with more frequency than Theresa had ever thought of doing. Bill Henderson had been elected in 1994 as part of a family courts reform push, only to leave when he was accused of tax fraud in '97. Henderson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in that case a year later, followed by the election of former associate judge Doug Warne to the bench that same year. In the meantime, the Crane case had languished for five years.

With Theresa and the kids unaware of the events unfolding more than 1,000 miles away, the hearing went on as scheduled. A parent can't indefinitely delay such legal actions by dodging process servers, although it appears that the father's attorneys had the ability to easily locate both the mother and the kids.

Jim got his legal order to seize the kids and haul them back to Houston. Theresa concedes that she had not given her ex written notice about the relocation, but says she told him three days before it happened. She argues there was an urgency to the move because school was starting and they needed to be there to be able to enroll the children in school.

As for her motives, the mother says she had a job prospect with a planned music channel in Los Angeles -- there was never evidence offered to back that claim -- and the oxygen-thin altitudes of Colorado had aggravated a health problem. Theresa swore in testimony that Jim was aware of their moving plans and had discussed it with her and the kids. And that he'd been in "daily contact" by telephone with the children. She says he made her an offer she had to refuse: "Give me my son and I'll help you move to California -- or I'll make your life miserable."

Attorneys for Jim strongly disputed her version and, in questioning, accused Theresa of taking revenge on the father for not acting on her desires to set up a lucrative trust for the kids. Despite the contradictions and her challenges, there was one concrete reality -- she'd been under a court order barring her from moving, and she'd moved anyway.

Jim and his wife Franci had reclaimed his children. It didn't come with the happily ever-after ending.

On October 13, the tree-lined serenity of posh North Boulevard was shattered by sounds more suited for a back-alley bar fight.

Some witnesses said Franci and Krystal started the screaming match. Theresa and Jim had their own shouted exchanges, with Jared adding to the bedlam. Then it turned physical. Jared and his father grappled and tumbled to the ground -- there is dispute over whether punches were thrown. Jim's lawyers later accused Theresa of hollering to Jim that she would "bring him and his empire down." She denied that, as well as accusations that she'd threatened to beat Franci up.

So much for an orderly transfer of children.

After a couple of weeks of living with his California imports, Jim had agreed to give Krystal up in exchange for Theresa accepting that the father would retain temporary custody of Jared. She was bringing her son back to stay and picking up her daughter when all hell broke loose.

"I knew Jim never really wanted Krystal, and never intended to keep her," Theresa alleges. "He just used her as a negotiating tool to keep Jared." It definitely had side benefits for Jim's legal efforts. His attorneys had added an argument for any court session in the fight -- why was Theresa in Houston, battling for her son? Why, they asked, wasn't she back in California, tending to her daughter? Every absence, every grade involving Krystal got special attention from the other side.

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