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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, September 18, 2009

Custody courts are not helping

On Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, neighbor Hailey Erickson brings a flower and a stuffed animal to a makeshift memorial in front of the apartment where a father and his children were found dead in the 2700 block of White Ridge Place the day on Wednesday, Sept 16, in Thousand Oaks. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

Jobless dad, kids in murder-suicide

By Connie Llanos, Jerry Berrios and Kevin Modesti, Staff Writers
Updated: 09/17/2009 09:53:39 PM PDT
published in the Los Angeles Daily News

THOUSAND OAKS — After losing his job in the midst of fighting a child-custody battle, a Thousand Oaks father apparently stabbed his two children to death in their own beds and then killed himself, police said.
The murder-suicide stunned this suburban Ventura County community which hadn't seen a single homicide for more than a year.

The children's mother found the bodies of her ex-husband, James Mulvaney, 52, son Jason, 12, and daughter Jennifer, 7, when she went to pick up the children from their father's home Wednesday evening, said Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ross Bonfiglio.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office determined the two children died from multiple stab wounds. Mulvaney's cause of death is pending toxicology reports, which could take anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. But officials said it appeared he overdosed on prescription medication.

Shocked neighbors described Mulvaney as a quiet family man who was often seen outside watching his kids ride their bikes or swim in The Knolls apartment complex pool. They said he had lived there for about six months.

Karla Jackson, a neighbor whose 11-year-old son often played with the Mulvaney children, said the kids always seemed happy.

"They had beautiful blond hair and always had big smiles on their faces," Jackson said as she teared up. "It will be a long time before we will be able to get over this."

She said the scene at the apartment complex was like a movie. A crime scene investigations truck was parked in front of the apartment, as well as several police cars. Dozens of residents watched the crime scene.
"I was out here until 1 a.m. last night," Jackson said. "I couldn't sleep. I just can't believe this happened."

Mulvaney's ex-wife called 911 at 5:42 p.m. Wednesday, police said. She had become concerned after learning the children had not attended school or after-school activities Wednesday.

She also identified the bodies.

Authorities believe Mulvaney killed the children between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 2 a.m. Wednesday, then killed himself between 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"It is believed he overdosed on multiple prescription medications," said Craig Stevens, a senior deputy medical examiner.

They recovered the presumed murder weapon from inside the house, a large, fixed-blade knife covered in blood.

The couple was recently divorced and were in court over custody of their children, Bonfiglio said.

Grief counselors were at Lang Ranch Elementary and Los Cerritos Middle School Thursday to help students and teachers deal with the tragedy.

"It's a tightknit community and we all rely on one another," said Janet Cosaro, assistant superintendent of instruction at Conejo Valley Unified School District.

Cosaro said the tragic event was not only heartbreaking but uncommon for the quiet suburban neighborhood.

Bonfiglio said Mulvaney had lost a job recently.

Mulvaney previously worked at a Citibank branch in Camarillo, a branch employee confirmed Thursday. A Citibank corporate spokesman would only confirm he once worked for the bank.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all the friends and families who are affected by this tragedy," Citibank spokesman Robert Julavits said in a written statement.

Investigators worked overnight Wednesday combing through the apartment in the 544-unit upscale Spanish-style complex for clues to the gruesome crime. By Thursday afternoon, a crime scene cleanup crew arrived at the corner apartment.

Bonnie Shapiro, one of Mulvaney's neighbors, said she came out to console Mulvaney's ex-wife after she heard her screams at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"You don't think you are going to come home to something like this," Shapiro said. "My heart goes out to her."

Thursday afternoon, gold and blue glittery hula hoops lay by the entrance to Mulvaney's apartment. His gray Lexus sedan was parked out front with a red and white soccer ball in the front passenger seat and pink tennis shoes in the back seat.

Neighbors identified a blue Volvo station wagon, parked askew two doors from the apartment, as belonging to Mulvaney's ex-wife. She also had children's items scattered throughout her car including soccer cleats, knee pads and a My Little Pony video game.

The tragedy follows a recent rash of family murder suicides in the Southland in the past two years, including incidents in North Hollywood, Porter Ranch, Covina, Yorba Linda, San Clemente and Wilmington.

Dr. Lanny Berman, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based American Association of Suicidology, said the role of marital strain and child-custody battles in such violent incidents is "a common theme."

Berman said evidence is mixed on whether job losses and other elements of the national economic downturn have contributed to any increase in suicides and violent behavior.

Berman said that during the recession, operators of some suicide-prevention helplines have reported an increase in calls in which financial stress seems to be a factor, but others report no difference.

Because there's typically a two- to three-year lag in the reporting of suicide data, statistical evidence of a correlation between the recession and suicide attempts is not yet available, and a direct tie-in may never be proven.

"All we have is anecdotal reports, and the media picks up on these things, because everyone suspects there's going to be an effect," Berman said. "I would caution against rushing to judgment on it.

"That's not to say it couldn't be a factor. But the economy has affected millions of people in this country. To commit suicide, somebody would have to have a lot more going on. (Financial stress) is not a sufficient explanation."

Daily News research
Updated: 09/17/2009 09:43:53 PM PDT

Other slayings
Parents killing kids

Wednesday: Thuy Le, 38, of Garden Grove, is suspected of stabbing her 3- and 5-year-old daughters with a kitchen knife at a cousin's home in Westminster, then stabbing herself. The 5-year-old girl has been placed on life support but is expected to survive. The 3-year-old girl suffered superficial wounds. Authorities said they plan to charge Le with attempted murder.

Sept. 2: Diana Moreno, 17, and Edith Moreno, 11, die when their throats are slashed at their North Hollywood home. Their mother, Antonia Gomez, has been charged with capital murder. She pleaded not guilty during a hearing Thursday.

Jan. 27: Ervin Lupoe of Wilmington kills his wife and their five children before turning the gun on himself. Lupoe and his wife, Ana, had just been fired from their jobs as medical technicians at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in West Los Angeles.

Dec. 24, 2008: Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, of Sylmar, dressed in a Santa Claus costume, commits suicide after killing nine people at a Christmas Eve party at the Covina home of his former in-laws. An unemployed aerospace worker, Pardo had recently divorced.

Oct. 6, 2008: Karthik Rajaram, an out-of-work financial analyst, kills his wife, three sons and mother-in-law before committing suicide in their rented home in Porter Ranch.

May 2008: Five members of a close-knit Turkish-American family in San Clemente die in what authorities say was a suicide pact. A motive was never determined.

Feb. 23, 2008: Orland Cho, 41, killed his wife and three of his children in their Yorba Linda condominium before turning the shotgun on himself. A 14-year-old stepson was shot but survived.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What happens when a mom is alleged to "alienate"

Click on the title to watch a custody court at work.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Court-ordered child abuse

In this news story, an adult who was given to the custody of an abusive parent by a California court, writes of being forced to commit crimes. To read that letter, click on the title above.

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: