The stepmother of missing Oregon boy Kyron Horman was called a "prime suspect" in his disappearance by a judge who ruled a $10 million civil suit against the woman could proceed.
The opinion was issued in the civil case filed by Desiree Young, Kyron's birth mother, against his stepmother Terri Horman.
Terri Horman will not be required to answer any questions in the civil suit, since there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the boy's disappearance.
"The defendant is a prime suspect in the investigation," Circuit Court Judge Henry Kantor wrote, explaining his decision to allow the case to proceed but allowing Terri Horman to avoid a deposition that could potentially incriminate her in the criminal investigation.
But the judge said he believed the civil case could not be delayed.
"Witnesses and evidence may disappear. Memories may fade. The opportunity to find Kyron, alive or dead, lessens," Kantor wrote.
Young has said she believes Horman knows what happened to her son, who was 7 at the time of his disappearance in 2010.
"I believe that Terri Horman knows where Kyron is. I believe that Terri Horman is responsible for where my son is," Young said in June after she filed the civil suit.
Police have also have indicated there are discrepancies in Terri Horman's account of what happened on the morning of June 4, 2010, when Kyron disappeared, however she has not been named a formal suspect.
Horman admitted to hating her 7-year-old stepson, police said.
Kyron disappeared after his stepmother attended a school science fair where her stepson had displayed a project on red tree frogs.
When Kyron didn't come home on the bus that Friday afternoon, his parents called the school, which in turn called 911, launching one of the largest search operations ever in Oregon.
Police have since spent more than 28,000 man hours searching for Kyron.
The missing boy's father, Kaine Horman, has since filed for divorce from Horman after being told she had allegedly tried to hire someone to kill him.
Terri Horman has released only brief statements through her attorney that she did not have anything to do with Kyron's disappearance.