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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.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The law favors joint custody regardless of safety


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7219334.html

Slain kids' mom tells of abusive marriage

Court papers detail alleged violence by children's father before their deaths

By LINDSAY WISE
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Sept. 27, 2010, 8:02AM

Harris County Sheriff's Office
Mohammad Goher is accused of shooting his son and two daughters as they slept in his apartment.

Norma Martinez said her husband was drunk when he chased her into their daughter's bedroom in May 2006, threatening to shoot her if she didn't tell him the name of the man who asked her out.

"I told him no one had asked me out," Martinez said in an affidavit she later filed in support of a protection order against her husband, Mohammad Goher.

Goher handed her the gun and told her to shoot him, but Martinez took the bullets out instead, she said. He responded by pulling her hair and punching her on the arms and stomach, she added.

Goher was convicted of assault of a family member and placed on deferred adjudication.

The 47-year-old Harris County man now faces capital murder charges in the deaths of the couple's three children. He is accused of shooting son Saeed, 12, and daughters Saeedah, 14, and Aisha, 7, on Sept. 19 as they slept in his apartment.

Court documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle detail Martinez's allegations that her husband physically, emotionally and verbally abused her throughout their 15-year marriage. She said Goher "has thrown objects, broken things, spit at me, pulled my hair, pushed and shoved me, grabbed me, slapped me, and threatened me with a weapon." Several times, Martinez said, he'd threatened to kill himself and kill her, including incidents in July and August 2008, when Goher allegedly tried to strangle her and pointed a Chinese sword at her.

In September 2008, Goher accused her of having an affair with his friend, Martinez stated in the affidavit.

Goher "told me I had to clean his name, that I had to take his gun and go kill this man," Martinez said. She said Goher made her sit right next to him so he would know where she was at all times.

"When I walked away to use the restroom, I had to tell him where I was going," she said. "I left the house the next day."

About two months later, Goher took the children and refused to let her talk to them, Martinez said.

Threats to take children

Martinez described expletive-laced phone calls and voice mails between December 2008 and February 2009 in which Goher allegedly called her names, accused her of running off with drug dealers, threatened to shoot her, and told her she'd never see the children again.

"The children were supposed to be in Pakistan temporarily to study the Koran and then come back here, or we were going to go to Pakistan to live with them," Martinez said in the affidavit.

Martinez's divorce petition, dated Feb. 5, includes copies of correspondence between Martinez and her legal advocate and the State Department, begging authorities to help locate her children in Pakistan.

Martinez said she hadn't spoken to her children since November 2008. That month, officials from the U.S. Consulate in Karachi had conducted a welfare visit at her request to check on the children, who were living at an apartment with Goher's parents in the Garden West neighborhood of Karachi.

Consular officials sent Martinez a letter recounting the visit on Nov. 25, 2008. Officials had only been allowed to talk to the children for 15 to 20 minutes. They were living in a three-room apartment with 10 or 12 people in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. All three children were clean and well-dressed, but their grandmother maintained control of the conversation and did not allow photographs.

"The children were not communicating, especially the eldest," a consular official wrote in the letter to Martinez. "They sought the grandmother's approval before answering any questions."

Not long after the welfare check, Martinez said she received a phone call from her daughter from an unknown number. She said her daughter told her that she and her two siblings had been moved to another location.

"My daughter also asked me to come get her — I was very fearful to hear this," Martinez wrote in a letter to the State Department's Office of Children's Issues on Jan. 12.

"You previously informed me that my children were not considered missing because I had their location in Karachi, Pakistan - but they are now missing!" she wrote. "They have been missing for almost a year now."

Traveled to Pakistan

She asked officials to help her find her the children and requested that they be added to databases for missing children.

"I implore that your office move forward with my case," she wrote. "Every day of not knowing where my children are or how they are doing is devastating."

A desperate Martinez traveled to Pakistan with Bibi Khan, the president of An-Nisa Hope Center, a Harris County shelter and advocacy group for Muslim women.

"If you had seen the way she cried, and if you had seen the way she was begging to see her kids again, I think you, too, would have said, 'OK, I'm going to go to Pakistan to help her find her kids,'" Khan said.

Khan said she helped Martinez scour the area in Karachi where her husband's parents had been living, interviewing neighbors for clues.

"We had to go to each school to see if they were there," Khan said. "You can imagine how many schools there are in Karachi. The only lead we had was her husband's family made her older daughter wear the veil."

Martinez finally reunited with her children at her lawyer's office in Houston, after she filed for divorce from Goher in Harris County's 312th District Court. He brought them back to the U.S. in time for a hearing in March.

"She hadn't seen them in a long time so there were hugs and tears and joy that they were back together again," said Martinez's attorney, Sandra Peake. "They were very, emotional and they were very happy and they just started talking and hugging almost as if they weren't sure that that was mom."

Sought sole custody

In her petition for divorce, Martinez requested sole custody of the children and sought damages for expenses, mental suffering and anguish.

In his response to his wife's suit, Goher denied her "gratuitous and self-serving allegations" and rejected her request for sole custody. He said that Martinez had committed acts of violence against him and the children, and asked the court to order Martinez to pay his attorney's fees and costs.

After a March 9 court hearing, Martinez and Goher were given temporary orders for joint custody of the children. Goher and Martinez were prohibited from contacting each other, or removing the children from Harris County. The children's passports were confiscated. Goher was granted unsupervised visitation with the children every weekend. The rest of the time, the children lived with their mother at the An-Nisa Hope Center shelter.

"The presumption in family law is joint custody; you have to overcome that to deprive the father of his visitation rights," said Syed Izfar, the amicus attorney appointed to assist the court with issues related to the children. "The legal presumption is that children benefit from nurturing and care of both parents. In this case it didn't work out, that's true, but that's the presumption of the law."

Given visitation rights

After the court issued the temporary custody orders in March, Martinez's attorney did not oppose Goher's visitation rights, Izfar said.

Peake expected to request continued joint custody at a divorce mediation scheduled for Sept. 24.

In the absence of specific threats against the children, there was no reason to think Goher was anything but a loving father, Peake said. "I thought that (Martinez) would be more at risk than they were," she said.

"How would you know that he would shoot three kids in the head or however he shot them?" Peake said. "They've been going over there and they've been coming back and they're not bruised and the amicus doesn't seem to have any concerns."

The children never expressed any fear of their dad, Izfar said. "They did say that he was trying to pressure them into staying with him. ... I said, 'Do you want to go visit your dad, or do you want to stop visitation?' One and all said, 'No, we do want to go visit him.' "

"I don't know what happened," he said. "I wish I knew."

Goher's divorce attorney, Fel E. Tabangay, declined to comment without instructions from his client, who was listed in fair condition at Ben Taub General Hospital, where he is recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

An-Nisa Hope Center: 713-339-0803; annisahopecenter.com/
DAYA: Serving South Asian Families in Crisis: 713-981-7645; www.dayahouston.org/
Asians Against Domestic Abuse: 713-339-8300; www.aadainc.org/
Houston Area Women's Center: 800-799-SAFE (7233), www.hawc.org

lindsay.wise@chron.com

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When authorities do not listen to victims of abuse

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=7683866&pt=print

New details in case of dad accused of slaying kids
Thursday, September 23, 2010
by Jessica Willey
Related Video

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- We've learned that a gun police say a father used to shoot his three children was once handled by investigators. It's new information in a disturbing case.

The gun the father is accused of using was returned to him by the legal system. It was the same gun that was around the children for years, and there's nothing the courts could have done about it.

Mohammad Goher was still at Ben Taub Hospital Wednesday night after surviving what investigators describe as a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. They say he used the same gun to kill his three children, ages 14, 12 and 7, and that gun was once the temporary property of the court.

"It's horrifying," said Steven Halpert.

Halpert has something heavy on his mind. He was the defense attorney for Goher who saw him through a successful deferred adjudication for assaulting his wife.

"This is every human being or every lawyer's nightmare for this to happen," Halpert said. "He was a model probationer."

Halpert also helped him get back the gun investigators say he used to murder his children.

"Had I had an inkling that there was something dangerous lurking or that he would do something improper with these weapons, then I would not have signed my name to that motion," Halpert said.

That motion led to an order on June 13, 2008, from Judge Jean Hughes to return two of Goher's guns taken from him after the 2006 assault on his wife. The two weapons were a 9mm and a rifle.

Harris County investigators confirm that the 9mm was the murder weapon Goher allegedly used early Sunday morning to kill his three children inside the back of his convenience store as they slept.

"There's no fault of the judge for giving back a gun that was used ultimately in a murder here because the judge had no more jurisdiction," KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said.

Androphy says the judge was legally required to return Goher's property. Any opposition, he says, should have come from the state or family court.

Friends of Goher's wife have described a violent past that sent her fleeing to a local Islamic domestic abuse shelter. Halpert says he never saw it.

"He was just a working guy and a very nice guy," Halpert said.

But he still can't help but feel some guilt.

"If I could go back to June 12, of course; it's a nightmare," Halpert said.

Those close to Goher's ex-wife say he should have never had access to any guns and that the children were afraid of him.

Goher is charged with capital murder. The Harris County District Attorney's Office hasn't said whether it will pursue the death penalty.

(Copyright ©2010 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)


http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=7678461

Shelter: Dad accused of killing kids made threats
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

by Miya Shay

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- There's new information in the case of a man accused of killing his own children before trying to commit suicide.

Police say Mohammad Goher was afraid of losing custody of the children to his ex-wife, but we're learning more about their split and the unusual demands he made to spend time with his children.

It's such a devastatingly sad story in any way you look at it. Goher is still being treated for a gunshot wound at an area hospital, but he has been charged with capital murder in connection the slaying of his three children. He has a court appearance scheduled on Tuesday, but on Monday, a lot of people who knew about the divorce between him and his ex-wife say this was something they didn't quite expect.

A teddy bear and a few burnt out candles marked the place where three children lost their lives. Attorney Sandra Peake remembers meeting them.

"They were just as cute as they could be, and very loving and affectionate towards their mom," Peake said.

Peake represents Norma Goher, the mother of 14-year-old Saeedah, 12-year-old Saeed, 7-year-old Aisha.

Their birth certificates show the kids were born in America, but Goher, their father, sent them to Pakistan for two years until, family members say, Norma Goher managed to get them returned to Houston this past February.

"She was extremely attached. She was very determined to get the kids back from Pakistan and bring them here so she could raise them," Peake said.

But this past Sunday, the unthinkable happened.

Goher is now accused of killing his three kids during a court-ordered visitation.

"Apparently, someone told him last week that the children would be taken away from him," said Syed Izfar.

Izfar is the attorney who was representing the interests of the children as their parents divorced.

"No one knew this was coming," he said. "This was a bolt out of the blue."

Prior to that visit, Goher had reached out to local Pakistani radio host Manzoor Memon and was willing to go on the radio to talk about his case.

"Our plan was to put him on radio talk show on Sunday at 12 o'clock," Memon said. "And I called him around 11 o'clock to confirm that he will be on the radio, and he didn't pick up the phone and this thing had had already happened."

Norma Goher has been living in a women's shelter for more than a year. She had a restraining order against her ex-husband, who was also arrested in 2006 for beating her.

So why did the children visit every weekend? The women running the shelter An-Nisa Shelter offers some insight.

"Many times, he threatened the children, 'If you don't come back to me, I will kill you. I will kill myself. I will kill myself,'" one of them told us. "They cared about their father."

In fact, the women who run the shelter say the kids often had reservations about visiting their father, but because they loved him and wanted to see him alive and well, they'd often go visit him when he made threats.

Despite these alleged threats, Child Protective Services says not one single complaint had been filed in connection to the alleged mistreatment of the children prior to their deaths. The only records of abuse are between the mother and the father.

Late Monday night, strangers mourned for the three children during a vigil. Kneeling in prayer before freshly lit candles, they also pray most for the mother of the victims.

(Copyright ©2010 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

When authorities fail to protect children

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/09/swatara_township_boys_death_ru_1.html

Swatara Township, PA, boy's death ruled homicide; maternal grandmother says she tried to report child abuse, but was rebuffed

Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 12:00 AM Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 12:43 PM
LARA BRENCKLE, The Patriot-News

The Dauphin County coroner’s office announced Wednesday what Tammy Beltz said she’s known since May 25.

Her grandson Jayahn Cox-Phoenix’s death was a homicide.

The coroner ruled Jayahn, 3, died as a result of freshwater drowning and traumatic brain injury, according to a news release.

Swatara Township police issued a news release stating they were opening an investigation into Jayahn’s death.

Jayahn was found unresponsive in the bathtub of a home in the 3600 block of Chambers Hill Road on May 21, police said.

The district attorney’s office, the police and Dauphin County Children and Youth Services, which was involved in Jayahn’s life, declined further comment. No charges have been filed.

But Beltz, of Harrisburg, is talking. She said she has been even before the day her grandson, who loved walking to the store and afternoons at Chuck E. Cheese’s, died.

Jayahn, she said, was being abused. She had proof, she said, but no one would listen.

“I have 11 grandkids,” Beltz said. “I lost my grandson, and I feel like I failed as a grandmom because I couldn’t protect him.”

Born to Beltz’s daughter, Jasmine Cox, in 2007, Jayahn and Cox lived with Beltz in her Crescent Street home.

Stephen S. Dixon, Jayhan’s father, didn’t care for him until January, Beltz said. Initially, Beltz said, her daughter allowed Dixon to care for the boy on weekends. On March 21, Beltz said, Dixon took Jayahn and then refused to return him when the weekend was over.

Beltz and her daughter called police, but were told that with no formal custody arrangement and Dixon’s acknowledged paternity, there was nothing they could do.

Two days later, according to court documents provided by Beltz, Dixon lodged a child-abuse complaint against Cox with Dauphin County Children and Youth’s Childline. Those allegations were unfounded, Beltz said.

Throughout April, Cox and Beltz attempted to contact Jayahn and Dixon.

Those calls, Beltz said, either went unanswered, were blocked or answered evasively.

Beltz made several calls to CYS after reports from other family members and friends told her that Jayahn was being abused.

She said she never heard back from CYS on the findings of her family’s allegations.

“They never came out, never invited us to a safety plan meeting, nothing,” Beltz said.

In a last-ditch effort, Beltz went to Dixon’s home to try to get Jayahn back. The police were called, she said, and refused to let her take Jayahn.

Beltz called CYS during the incident to plead her case one more time, she said. She said she was told to stop bothering caseworkers with unfounded allegations.

The next day, May 7, Cox filed a handwritten petition for emergency custody.

“I also reported to Children and Youth about my son being beat,” she wrote. “I haven’t seen or talked to my son in over two months now. Every time I call and ask to speak to my son, he’s either asleep, not there, just left or half the time they don’t even pick up.”

On May 11, Judge Andrew Dowling denied the petition, saying the court “failed to see sufficient allegations of conditions or facts.”

Eleven days later, Jayahn was hospitalized.

A cell phone number for Dixon was disconnected.

A woman who answered the phone at another number, which Dixon had given in court papers, said Dixon would not be speaking to a reporter about his son’s death and told a reporter to never call her home again.

Beltz and her daughter are grappling with the loss. When she misses her grandson, Beltz plays the message Jayahn left on her phone in one of his last calls, about three days before his father took custody of him. It’s all she has left of him, she said.

“Why nanna not answering phone?” his baby voice asks his mother. Then the line goes quiet.
© 2010 PennLive.com. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'They still made me send my kids to him'

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7210150.html


Mohammad Goher is charged with capital murder in the deaths of his three kids.

Mother of slain children says she sounded alarm about abuse repeatedly
By LINDSAY WISE and ERICKA MELLON
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Sept. 21, 2010, 5:27PM

Video: Volunteers from a womens shelter say the man had been abusing his wife and children for years.

A woman whose estranged husband shot and killed their three children while they slept in his Harris County apartment on Sunday says no one heeded her warnings that her husband was dangerous.

"I have documents of everything, all the abuse, and I showed it to everyone, but no one believed me, and they still made me send my kids to him every weekend," Norma Martinez said in a statement read by Tayseir Mahmoud, a board member at An-Nisa Hope Center, a nonprofit that operates a shelter for battered women.

Martinez and the children had been living at the shelter since March, Mahmoud said. The children would visit their father every weekend in accordance with a court-ordered visitation schedule, she said.

"She's been married to this man for 15 years, and she's gone through a lot of domestic abuse," Mahmoud said of Martinez, who was too distraught to speak publicly on Monday. "Since three years ago, she's been trying to tell people her story and raise awareness of what's gong on and nobody really took her seriously."

Martinez's husband, Mohammad Goher, 47, is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of son Saeed, 12, and daughters Saeedah, 14 and Aisha, 7.

The children were at the heart of a bitter custody dispute that dragged on for years as their parents' marriage deteriorated.

In May 2006, Goher was convicted of assault of a family member and placed on deferred adjudication, district attorney's spokesman George Flynn said. Official records indicate Goher, who was intoxicated, beat his wife with his hands and fists, leaving her bruised and injuring her right hand.

In 2008, Goher took the children to stay with relatives in Pakistan and refused to tell his wife where they were, said Christina Diaz, the vice president of operations for An-Nisa. Diaz said Martinez, who's Hispanic, sought help from the FBI, consulates and embassies. She finally reunited with the children about six months ago after An-Nisa volunteers helped her locate them in Pakistan.

Custody hearing
Martinez filed for divorce in February. She planned to request joint custody at a divorce mediation on Friday, Mahmoud said. "She was not asking for sole custody of the children," Mahmoud said.

But Goher apparently feared he might never see his children again. He'd threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation, said attorney Syed Izfar, who was appointed by a court to represent the children in the mediation.

About four weeks ago, Goher called Manzoor Memon, the editor in chief of a monthly journal and weekly radio show serving Houston's Pakistani community.

"He wanted me to help him to get his family back," Memon said. He said Goher suspected his wife had a relationship with another man, who planned to marry her.

Volunteers with the An-Nisa Hope Center denied any improper relationship existed and said Memon's involvement just made a fraught situation worse. Mahmoud said Memon's wife "claims to be some kind of psychic" and told Goher the judge would grant full custody to his wife.

Memon said his wife is psychic, but she never made any predictions to Goher. "She had told him that you need to get your act together otherwise you'll lose your kids," Memon said.

Memon and his wife visited Goher's apartment on Saturday and Goher agreed to discuss his situation on Memon's radio show on Sunday. Memon said he called Goher that morning to confirm his appearance on the show, but no one picked up the phone.

'They were scared'
Goher is accused of shooting the children to death in their beds at about 9 a.m. Sunday before turning the gun on himself at his apartment in the 13000 block of Homestead.

Goher survived and was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital, where he remained unconscious on Monday, said Harris County Homicide Sgt. Ben Beall.

One of the children's former teachers recalled that Saeedah expressed fear that she and her younger siblings had to spend the weekends with their dad.

"She really liked being with her mom. They were scared to go with their dad," said Jodi Fisher, a math teacher at Schindewolf Intermediate in the Klein Independent School District. "They loved him, but they were scared."

Quiet and reserved
Even so, Saeedah told her teacher that her younger sister and brother did enjoy going to their dad's place.

"The reason she went was to protect them," Fisher said.

Saeedah never mentioned if her father was violent, Fisher said, but the girl would tear up at times talking about her family.

"But I never ever thought anything like this would happen," said Fisher, who taught Saeedah last school year and her younger brother, Saeed, this school year.

Both children were quiet, Fisher said, but they always asked for help with their work and were very bright.

"They were two of the best kids," Fisher recalled. "Very reserved, but, oh my goodness, they were so sweet."

Saeedah was a freshman at Klein Collins High School this year and was on the track team. Saeed was a seventh-grader at Schindewolf, and Aisha was a second-grader at Lemm Elementary.

Vicki Bevan, Saeedah's track coach at Klein Collins, said the teenager didn't have track experience but called her over the summer to ask to join the team.

"She just said she wanted some normalcy in her life, and she felt like being part of a team could bring that," Bevan recalled.

Reporter Allan Turner contributed to this report.
lindsay.wise@chron.com

ericka.mellon@chron.com

Father fears losing visitation and kills the kids instead

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39259068/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

A court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) planned to recommend unsupervised visitation for this father, even though he had threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation. This case exposes the danger of believing that a violent spouse can still be a safe parent. It also shows the danger of courts taking too long to decide custody cases.


msnbc.com news services

updated 9/20/2010 1:37:53 PM ET

A father accused of shooting his three children to death as they slept had previously threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation rights, an attorney said.

After Mohammed Goher's two daughters, ages 14 and 7, and a 12-year-old son were killed Sunday, authorities said Goher shot himself in the mouth in an apparent suicide attempt. He was in fair condition Monday at Ben Taub Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Goher was charged with three counts of capital murder, said Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Jamie Wagner. It was unknown whether he had an attorney.

He is divorced from the children's mother, Norma Goher, but had court-ordered visitation rights, according to the statement. Records show he was convicted in 2006 of beating his wife, who lived in a shelter for battered women.

The father's visitation rights were to be the subject of a court hearing in Houston later this month. Syed Izfar, appointed by the court to represent the children in the hearing, told the Houston Chronicle he was going to suggest Goher receive standard visitation.

Izfar did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press.

On Friday, as had been the custom since the Gohers' separated, the children went to stay with their father at his apartment, which is attached to a convenience store where Goher worked, about three miles south of Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport.

He was to have returned them Sunday afternoon to their mother, who had custody of the children during the week, authorities said.

"By all appearances, this was a man who loved his children. What a nightmare," Izfar told the Chronicle. "He had it in his mind that the children would be taken away from him forever."

The 47-year-old father had threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation, Izfar said, adding that he was unaware of Goher ever harming the children.

On Sunday morning as the children slept, Goher got out a handgun, authorities said. Harris County Homicide Sgt. Ben Beall told the Chronicle Goher shot one of his girls in a bedroom and his son and other daughter who were asleep in another room. Then, Beall said, Goher shot himself.

According to the Harris County Sheriff's office, Goher was expected to survive.

A family friend visiting from Pakistan reported seeing Goher with a handgun and fled the apartment, the Chronicle reported. Neighbors did not return telephone messages by The Associated Press.

One neighbor, Julio Rodriguez, told the Houston Chronicle that he dialed 911 after he saw a woman screaming when she left the apartment at the time of the shooting.

"I heard her screaming, "Gun! Gun! Shoot! Shoot!' I got scared because I knew there were kids in there," he said. Muhommad Riaz, Goher's co-worker at a convenience store near his apartment building, told the Chronicle that he had spoken with Goher Saturday. He found him to be upset over the upcoming court date and the fear of losing his visitation rights, Riaz said.

Goher said "everyone was lying" about him having a violent temper, Riaz told the newspaper.

© 2010 msnbc.com

Monday, September 20, 2010

When will judges stop gambling with children's safety in domestic violence cases?

39online.com /news/local/kiah-father-shoots-three-children-story,0,7132460.story

Father Charged With Deaths of Three Children

Mayra Moreno
KIAH-TV, Houston, TX
September 19, 2010

A father of three young children commits an unthinkable act. He's been charged with three counts of capital murder after killing his kids while they slept. That man is now resting in a hospital bed he apparently turned the gun on himself after killing his own children but he survived.

Police found 47 year old Muhammed Goher unconscious and the three children dead on the residential side of his business The A and D Food Market is located in northeast Harris County on the 13000 block of Homestead.

A friend of the man told me he was upset he didn't have custody of his children. Neighbors claim the couple had separated for quite some time and police say there is a history of domestic violence. Goher who only had visitation rights was suppose to drop off the kids with their mother on Sunday afternoon.

"Yeah he was stressed," said Raez Muhammad, friend of the father.

Muhammad spoke to a frantic father on Saturday, a person he had met a few months ago. He was helping Muhammed Goher deal with the stress of losing custody of his three children.

"So he said okay you come tomorrow (and) we will talk that's it," said Muhammad.

Muhammad arrived at three o'clock just like he promised but instead of walking inside the home to see his friend he waited outside as police combed through a homicide scene.

"We didn't even know he used a gun," said Blanca Gonzalez, who worked at Goher's store and lives across the street. She heard when a woman ran out of apartment screaming.

"She was just screaming yelling for help," said Gonzalez.

Police say the woman was living at the home to help care for Goher's three kids. She apparently witnessed as the father shot the three children; two girls ages 13 and 7 and a 12 year old boy.

"There is a good possibility they may have been asleep when they were shot," said a Houston Police homicide officer.

Police say Goher then turned the gun on himself. They found him unconscious on the floor with a gun shot wound to the head.

"The ambulance came they took the guy out he was bleeding," said Gonzalez.

Muhammad does admit Goher didn't want his children to live with their mother. The woman, a victim of domestic violence, is living in a half way house. Goher only had court order visits on the weekends.

"He said I have (a) home (and) I have (a) business why (don't) they give me (the) kids," said Muhammad.

Still, Muhammad never imagined his friend would be charged for the murder of the three children he loved so much.

Copyright © 2010, KIAH-TV

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 http://LittleHostages.blogspot.com


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 parentingproject@verizon.net

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here:

www.centerforjudicialexcellence.org/PhotoExhibit.htm
www.child-justice.org
www.leadershipcouncil.org
www.evawintl.org provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:
www.haguedv.org

more about domestic violence in law enforcement:
http://behindthebluewall.blogspot.com/



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