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Judge Awards ‘Permanent’ Custody Of Justina Pelletier To State

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BOSTON (CBS) — The judge in a year-long custody battle over a Connecticut teen has awarded permanent custody to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

Judge Joseph Johnston  issued the ruling Tuesday afternoon, in response to a motion, presented by the 15-year-old’s court-appointed lawyer and the lawyers for her parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn., which called for the parents to be awarded “conditional custody” of their daughter Justina.

Read: Judge’s Ruling

The state of Massachusetts took charge of Pelletier when her parents and doctors at Children’s Hospital clashed over her diagnosis and treatment in 2013.

Pelletier allegedly suffers from mitochondrial disease — a rare and controversial disorder where the body’s cells can’t produce energy, triggering chronic fatigue and severe digestive problems. The Pelletiers brought Justina into the Children’s Hospital ER where they say doctors quickly cast aside her diagnosis, instead concluding her problems were of psychiatric origin.

When the Pelletiers objected, Children’s brought in DCF and the state took custody of Justina, essentially ruling her parents were committing child abuse by pursuing medical rather than mental health treatment.

In his ruling, Judge Johnston said Justina’s parents “continue to engage in very concerning conduct.”The ruling goes on to detail a social worker had to be removed from the Pelletier case after being threatened by Lou Pelletier and that the parents use profanity directed at DCF while in Justina’s presence.

In a sit-down interview with WBZ-TV, Lou Pelletier says his daughter’s life is on the line and he won’t stop fighting.

“Once DCF gets custody, you fall in this deep, dark rabbit hole that you can’t get out of,” Pelletier said.

Lou and Linda Pelletier have vowed to the appeal the judge’s decision.

A Mass. judge can hear the appeal as soon as the summer but it’s also up to Connecticut authorities to allow Pelletier to move closer to her family in that state.

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