Local News

Woman Accused of Changing Gender Acquitted in Custody Dispute

Posted January 31, 2007

— A woman who authorities said passed herself off as a man for three years after taking her children from Arizona to Roanoke Rapids has been found not guilty of custodial interference charges.

Shellie White was arrested last March in Roanoke Rapids by U.S. Marshals, and her children, 9-year-old Erica and 7-year-old Dusty, were returned to Arizona to live with their father, Ernest Karnes.

White and Karnes had joint custody of the children when White and the children disappeared in 2003, authorities said.

When she was arrested, authorities said, White was acting as a man. She had her children call her "Daddy" and had used various male aliases, including her ex-husband's name, authorities said.

"How I looked when I was arrested was how I looked for some time," White told WRAL.com in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I wasn't traipsing all over the country trying to hide my children."

White said she showed the jury that Karnes gave her permission to take the children out of state and waited more than two years before he appealed to authorities to find them. During the time they were in Connecticut and North Carolina, she said, she and the children would routinely talk to her ex-husband on the phone and send him birthday and holiday cards.

"She had the kids lawfully, and this really should not have been prosecuted," White's attorney, Anna Ortiz, told WRAL.

The children remain in Karnes' custody in Globe, which is about 90 miles east of Phoenix. White said she meets with them for an hour every other Friday, and she plans to seek a renewal of the joint custody arrangement now that she has been acquitted.

Karnes's wife, Melissa Karnes, told WRAL that White hasn't spoken to the children since Christmas and that the children don't want to associate with their mother anymore.

“They know the truth, and for them to now know that she got away with it, what does that teach them about being honest?” Melissa Karnes said. “The kids are doing well. This is where they want to be. Ernest is upset, to say the least."

White lives and works for a construction company in Clifton, Ariz., a mining town near the New Mexico border about two hours southeast of Globe. She said she hopes the jury verdict will restore her reputation and that of her family.

"This is a relief for my kids, a relief for me and a relief for my family," she said. "There were a lot of people involved in this."

This story is closed for comments.

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  • mrsconduct Feb 6, 2007

    OK "Let me get this straight" This Wo-man, leaves her hometown,taking her children with her, unbenounced to her X husband, (the childrens real daddy), Then tells her kids to call her "Daddy", Then how did she explain to her children who their real Daddy was? But she ( he) was found " NOT GUILTY "???
    Were the jurors in this case asleep during this trial? If she tricked her own children into believing that she was their Daddy, then she (he) is obviously a master CON-ARTIST!!!

  • WXYZ Feb 1, 2007

    "Changing gender" requires extensive and extremely expensive surgery, hormone therapy and psychotherapy. This woman is accused of using false identities and making false and misleading statements in an attempt to delay or impair the child custody authorities. She and her lawyer have apparently been successful at talking their way out of those charges. The child custody people may also be concerned about the woman's mental state and whether she is fit to have custody of the children.

  • Punky Feb 1, 2007

    Thats absolutely disgusing, what is wrong with society. Take the children away from her/him/it. What kind of psychological problems has this caused the children?? Sick and disgusting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • WXYZ Feb 1, 2007

    "Woman Accused of Changing Gender Acquitted in Custody Dispute". The woman did not "change" her gender, she is accused of using false identities and lying in order to deceive or manipulate the government child custody regulators, her ex-husband and her children.

  • steelersfan Feb 1, 2007

    So the husband has nothing to say? He has to have his new wife talk for him, to tell the media he "is upset, to say the least"? Sounds like he has problems standing up for himself. My guess, at looking at the former Mrs. Karnes picture... his new wife is twice her size and he is some scrawny little 80lb man, living off his new "sugar mama".

  • abagaylesbooks Feb 1, 2007

    "Karnes's wife, Melissa Karnes, told WRAL that White hasn't spoken to the children since Christmas and that the children don't want to associate with their mother anymore." Thats extreme, and if this is so... Lets hope that Melissa helps the children through counseling so to repair any anger the children have towards their mother. Does it matter what their mother looks like or the level of love she has for them?

  • narck9 Feb 1, 2007

    She really does look like a dude.

  • narck9 Jan 31, 2007

    She does look like a dude!

  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Jan 31, 2007

    guess we know who wore the pants in that family....

  • Forgetaboutit Jan 31, 2007

    End of the world! Wow thanks for the notice!