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The unintentionally incarcerated: Children with parents in prison

When their dad was locked up in 2008, Lucky was just 3. Not long after dad went away, Lucky started becoming anxious. He would suddenly become angry and at times uncontrollable. Heather is worried he’ll end up like his father. (KTUL)

(KTUL) -- When a judge sentenced Storm and Lucky’s dad to seven years in prison for a robbery, Heather Hartley didn’t realize the sentence also applied to her kids.

“When I want to give up, I have to remember who is watching,” said Hartley.

When their dad was locked up in 2008, Stormy was barely 8 and Lucky was just 3. Not long after dad went away, Lucky started becoming anxious. He would suddenly become angry and at times uncontrollable. Heather is worried he’ll end up like his father.

“Shock, it’s a huge eye opener,” said Hartley. “We have to handle this now or that’s going to be, it’s going to be my son next.”

Heather’s kids are two of 26,000 children across Oklahoma with a parent behind bars. Heather worries about the impact on Lucky. Things have already taken an ominous turn.

“The voices told him to do it, is what he says,” said Hartley.

During the final few weeks of the summer of 2016, Heather took her kids to their favorite spot in Delaware County. They spent the day hanging out on the water, but the turmoil under the surface came bubbling up later that evening.

The family had a great time down on the creek and when it started to get later in the day, decided to head back to the cabin. Then, the unimaginable happened. Lucky grabbed a crossbow and aimed it at his sister.

“It was totally quiet to me. I couldn’t hear anything other than the sound that my daughter was making. I had never heard that sound before, it sounded like, I don’t know, a puppy?” said Hartley.

Lucky shot the crossbow, but Heather said she and Stormy were behind a door so he didn’t hit them. She was able to wrestle the weapon away from him, but then he hit her in the head with a two-by-four.

Heather’s sharing her story with Channel 8 because she wants other families and other kids to know they’re not alone.

“He was arrested at 9 years old,” said Hartley. “He’s just now 10. He has a record.”

Last December, Lucky was found guilty of four felonies in Delaware County. He’s been ordered by a judge to a facility that can help him cope with the turmoil inside.

“If I don’t get some help with him now, that’s going to be his life,” said Hartley. “He’s a good boy, he is, he’s a good boy.”

Since last July, Lucky has seen his dad twice. He remains at home with Heather, but not for long. She has to find a place that can help him deal with his problems.

For now, everything is peaceful.

“I just like the comfort and just being able to pet her,” said Lucky, cuddling up to his dog Starfly.

It’s moments like Lucky on the couch with his dog where Heather gets to just spend time with her little boy who’s just a child with plenty of dreams of his own.

“Anywhere, I would go the most mysterious places just to look for animals,” said Lucky.

At 18, Lucky’s records will be cleared if he doesn’t have any other problems. In spite of everything, Heather and her family cling onto one thing -- hope.

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