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Mother of Slain Tustin Boys Says She Had Complained to County About Family

Times Staff Writer

The mother of two Tustin boys who were shot to death Monday by their legal guardian said she complained repeatedly to county officials about her sons’ treatment, claiming that they were unhappy and that their guardians prevented her from visiting them.

“The last time I saw them was in July of ’86, and they stated that I wasn’t supposed to be there because I disturbed the children’s life style,” said Judy Sones. “And the children, Frankie and Billy, said, ‘Mama, can’t you stay here? We don’t want to stay here.’ ”

Sones, 29, arrived by Greyhound bus late Thursday night from her native Bloomer, Wis., to claim the bodies of her two sons, Frank, 8, and William, 11. In an emotionless voice, she said she had slept only 6 hours since she found out about her sons’ deaths and still could not believe it was true.

The boys were shot to death in their beds early in the morning by their 60-year-old guardian, Leon E. Huffman, who also killed his 86-year-old mother, Alice, before fatally wounding himself in the stomach.

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Huffman, who died Tuesday, left a suicide note saying he was despondent about his failing heart.

Boys Taken in 1980

In an interview at a restaurant in Santa Ana, Sones, a heavyset woman dressed in a striped polyester shirt and stretch pants, said the boys were taken from her in 1980 by Wisconsin social welfare officials because her alcoholic boyfriend was beating her and the boys.

Sones said she had left the man by the time her children were taken but could not persuade Wisconsin officials to let her keep them. She said her complaints to Orange County officials were never heeded.

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In 1981, Sones’ children came under the foster care of Leon Huffman and his wife, Betty. The Huffmans gained legal custody of the children in 1984.

Sones said that in subsequent years, she had visited her sons only three times because the Huffmans did not want her to see them. Sones said that she sent the children birthday cards and presents but that all were returned unopened.

“I had to fight just to get a picture of them,” Sones said. During her last visit, she said, the boys complained about their home life. “They didn’t like it there. They were living in fear, I can tell you that.” Although she could not say why she thought so, she said she sensed their fear.

‘She Was a Sweetheart’

Sones said the one person who did not try to obstruct her visits to the children was Alice Huffman--the only member of the Huffman family whom Sones said she pitied. “She was a sweetheart. . . . She’s the one that gave me the picture of the children.”

Sones lives with her husband and her 5-year-old son. She said she has been unable to work because of a recent hysterectomy and does not know how she will pay to have her sons’ bodies transported to Wisconsin, where they are to be buried.

She said officials of Orange County Childrens’ Services are not returning her telephone calls.

“I should have been able to be the mother instead of some stranger that only got to see them three times,” Sones said. “And they (the boys) knew my name. They called me Mama Judy after the foster family had them. They said, ‘Mama Judy, please don’t leave us here.’ And I told them I was gonna come back for them.”

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