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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why judges and police must learn to connect the dots of domestic violence

Death now a 1st-degree murder case

Laura Taft said her boyfriend threatened to kill her if she ever left him.

On Wednesday, with Taft still mourning the suspicious death of her 5-week-old son, Craig Wall made good on those threats, police say.

Wall, a 34-year-old ex-convict and father of the dead boy, was charged with first-degree murder in Taft's stabbing death. The slaying and arrest, authorities say, came just days after Wall was released from jail for violating a temporary domestic violence injunction filed by Taft.

The arrest affidavit requested that he be held without bail because he was suspected in the death of Craig Wall Jr.

A judge set bail at $1,000, and Wall was released.

Two days later, Taft, 29, was dead.

Courts spokesman Ron Stuart said it is unlikely Pinellas Circuit Judge George Jirotka had a copy of the arrest affidavit before setting bail.

Stuart said the charge against Wall, that he violated a temporary restraining order, was a misdemeanor. At a hearing after Wall's arrest, an assistant state attorney asked for bail of $2,500 and Wall's public defender asked for $500. Jirotka went with $1,000, Stuart said.

"This is a very tragic thing, but I don't think anybody did anything wrong," Stuart said.

Wall first came to the attention of authorities Feb. 5 when he emerged as a suspect in the death of his son within hours of the infant being flown by helicopter to All Children's Hospital.

He was the only adult with the child on that day, and a CT scan showed the baby had swelling on the left side of his brain, leading a doctor at the hospital to suspect the child had been shaken or thrown, court documents state.

Wall was videotaped saying he "was sorry that he did something to the baby," the documents state.

He was not arrested.

Taft showed the videotape to a Clearwater police officer. On Feb. 8, two days after the infant was taken off life support, Taft was granted the injunction against Wall.

Wall filed a petition of his own because he wanted to attend his son's funeral Sunday at St. Dunstan's Anglican Church in Largo. His petition was denied. Wall drove to the church parking lot and was arrested.

Clearwater police said Wednesday that they don't have enough evidence to decide whether to charge Wall in his son's death.

Elizabeth Watts, the city's public safety spokeswoman, said it would have been premature to arrest him because the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office has not determined how the boy died.

"That's why it's not a homicide," Watts said. "That's why it's called a death investigation."

A preliminary examination showed trauma to the brain and fractured ribs, but the results of forensics tests on the child's brain and eyes are not in, court documents state. Watts said investigators don't expect them for a couple of weeks.

In her petition for a temporary restraining order, Taft mentioned that something happened to her infant son while he was in Wall's care.

In 1994, Wall was sentenced to 17 years in prison after he burst into a St. Petersburg home with a long-barreled handgun and told an elderly couple he wanted the keys to a Ford Taurus parked outside, court documents state.

He was released two years ago after serving 14 years. On Wednesday, he was arrested in Sumter County after being found on State Road 44 in his vehicle.

Blog Archive

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: