A Utah teen has risen to TikTok stardom after maintaining a live stream of himself and his sister, barricaded in a bedroom, in an effort to stave off a court order that they return to their father’s custody.
At Jessica Zahrt’s Salt Lake City home, her 15-year-old son, Ty, and 12-year-old daughter, Brynlee, have reportedly remained isolated in a bedroom since December after a court ruled in favor of father Brent Larson’s custody dispute. In recent weeks, the boy has taken to live-streaming their self-induced captivity out of fear for their safety, having repeatedly accused the father of violently and sexually abusing them.
“I’m having to be barricaded in my room, my own choice, for me to stay safe because the court system isn’t trying to save us, nobody’s trying to keep us safe,” Ty said on TikTok in a video with nearly 400,000 views.
@stupid_flipper My story…. Why I am barricaded in my room because the police is trying to force me to my abusers house #help #foryou #mylife ♬ original sound – Stupid Flipper
“I am the one that’s going to have to choose my own safety. And this is only to stall the police, nothing’s gonna stop them, this is just a stall,” he went on before attesting that he and his sister were refusing to leave the room because of the believed danger of their father. “We are horrified to go to school, we are horrified to leave the house, we are horrified to even leave this room. I am scared if I get sent I will be killed by my father because of how many threats he has made to me and my family if I told anybody.”
ProPublica visited the home and spoke with the children who had cut a hole into the adjacent bathroom, also barricaded, and have not stepped into any communal spaces of the home. According to the outlet, in 2018 the Utah Division of Child and Family Services and police found allegations of sexual abuse committed by the father to both children were “supported,” but the man was never arrested. As to why not, records provided no explanation.
Despite those allegations of abuse, Judge Derek P. Pullan sided with Larson in December regarding a writ of assistance after Zahrt had failed to present the children for court-mandated parent-time and established that the children had “barricaded themselves” and not left the home since Dec. 8, 2022.
With her objection, the mother included “a 14-point compromise” believed to have been drafted by her son to which the judge summarily noted, “The children do labor under the misperception that they are in the driver’s seat and are free to determine when, where, and on what terms parent-time will occur. They are not.”
Officers reportedly visited the home in December but refused to break down the door because of the “potentially combustible situation” and sought clarity from the court on carrying out orders, according to the outlet.
Pullan later ruled in January that Zahrt had undergone a “campaign” of “parental alienation” and had facilitated the “abuse narrative” against their father by providing them with food and failing to require they remove themselves from the bedroom.
Parental alienation is disputed as a legitimate diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association and National Center for Juvenile Justice, especially in cases where there is suspicion of abuse.
As the case remains open, the judge was unable to offer comment but a court spokesperson did remark to ProPublica, “I know Judge Pullan spent many, many hours going through evidence and testimony before he made his ruling.”
To the allegations against Larson, his attorney Ron Wilkinson said, “There have been similar false claims — repeatedly, for years. The stories continue to change and expand each time — always about the same events.”
For the time being, the judge’s order for the ruling is not being enforced as a hearing may be required.
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