updated 12/13/2006 6:38:52 PM ET 2006-12-13T23:38:52

A couple accused of starving their two adopted children were awarded custody by a Family Court judge Wednesday, the parents’ attorney said.

John and Connie Oliver’s children were taken into state custody Sept. 23 after police found the 12-year-old girl and her then-10-year-old brother unattended at a church playground.

The girl weighed just 40 pounds at the time, and her brother weighed 45 pounds.

The two children had been adopted from an Estonian orphanage and suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Oliver attorney Doug Brannon argued during a hearing this week. He said the youngsters had gained only a few pounds during their nearly three months in state custody.

The children are to be returned next week to the Olivers in Jonesville, about 80 miles north of Columbia, Brannon said.

“The Department of Social Services had no evidence,” he said. “The only thing that they could prove was that Connie Oliver went to a store without the 12-year-old and 10-year-old and that inadvertently the door was locked.”

A phone message seeking comment from the social services agency was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Still face charges
The Olivers still face criminal charges. Connie Oliver is charged with felony unlawful neglect, and her husband faces a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to children. Brannon said he expects those charges to be dropped or reduced.

“We’re just happy we’re getting the kids back,” John Oliver told The Union Daily Times.

On Tuesday, a former Union County sheriff’s sergeant testified when she found the children they looked like they hadn’t “been fed in months.”

“They stated to me that they had been beat on by the mother,” former Sgt. Lisa Hyder said.

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