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Terry O’Kelley Granted Custody Of Two Youngest Brothers

May 21, 1987

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) _ Seven brothers, whose fight to remain a family made national news, got their wish when a judge granted 19-year-old Terry O’Kelley custody of his two youngest siblings.

Hall County Juvenile Court Judge William House on Tuesday made the eldest O’Kelley responsible for Michael O’Kelley, 12, and Jason O’Kelley, 9.

House granted Terry O’Kelley custody of brothers Tommy, 17; Charles, 17; David, 15; and Jeff, 14, last December.

″The court has not had any bad reports brought to it since the last hearing,″ House said. ″Terry, you will still have a pretty hard garden to plow.″

The Department of Family and Children Services for this north Georgia county will continue to supervise the family.

Terry O’Kelley left the courthouse without talking to reporters. His attorney, Weymon Forrester of Gainesville, said he and his client were pleased with the decision.

House laid down several conditions for Terry O’Kelley to keep custody, including maintaining adequate housing, custodial supervision and financial resources for his brothers.

The boys’ mother died of a brain tumor in 1983 at the age of 33. Their father, Wayne O’Kelley, abandoned them and later was sent to prison after pleading guilty to abandonment and theft charges.

Their grandfather, their sole support, died in 1985.

Published reports of the O’Kelley’s plight and Hall County residents’ efforts to help them drew national sympathy. During an Atlanta visit last year, President Reagan called Terry O’Kelley a hero.

Donations sent to the boys were placed in a trust fund, and a home and chicken house were built for them.

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