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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, December 10, 2010

The first American mother and children granted asylum abroad

Jewish Women International and the National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse have produced a very fine webinar that includes interviews with Holly Collins, Jennifer Collins, and Professor Mo Hannah, who chairs the annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference in Albany, New York. CEU credits are available. (Click on the title above OR paste the following web address into your browser. Click on the small blue WMV box. It will take a few seconds to download.)

After fourteen years living safely in the Netherlands, Jennifer Collins realized that the FBI was about to prosecute her mother for protecting her and her brother Zachary. The young woman mounted an amazing effort to tell their story to people in the United States. Jennifer spoke two years ago at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference.

Psychology profesor Mo Hannah at Sienna College has brought together battered mothers from around the country at the annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference in Albany, New York:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Custody decision gone bad

Stepfather of missing children speaks
Jonah Heathcock tries to stay optimistic

Updated: Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 1:47 PM CST
Published : Saturday, 04 Dec 2010, 10:14 PM CST

Paige Malone
MOBILE, Ala. - UPDATE: A search for the bodies of three-year-old Johnathan DeBlase and his four-year-old sister, Natalie continues today. This time at a second locaton in Mobile County according to Mobile Police Department.

Search teams began the second search in an area in the western part of the county. Stay with Fox 10 News. We have a crew on the scene and will keep you updated as information is released.

After hours of searching, police still have not found the bodies of three-year-old Johnathan DeBlase and his four-year-old sister Natalie.

Friday, their father, John DeBlase was arrested and told police the children are buried within a 100- mile radius of Mobile. Even after this news, their birth
mother and stepfather are trying to stay optimistic.

On November 19, police began searching for the missing children. Two weeks later, John DeBlase and his wife were arrested.

"My hope actually went up a notch with them having him," Corrine Heathcock, the children's mother told Fox 10 News earlier this week.

Not long after the interview, Heathcock and her husband Jonah Heathcock got some shocking news. DeBlase revealed to police that Jonathan and Natalie were dead.

"It was an eruption of tears. We just held each other as tightly as possible and cried like crazy. Called friends, called family," said Jonah Heathcock.

After hearing the news, Corrine Heathcock said, "Our hope is that they are found alive and well."

The search for the bodies began early Saturday morning and the Heathcock family was on edge all day.

"I'm just waiting for that phone call from a police officer to either call us or come up here and say we found them," said Jonah Heathcock.

Heathcock said they have been focusing on the good times they had with Jonathan and Natalie instead of looking toward a grim reality.

Today, memories of little Jonathan came to mind.

"He couldn't say hot dogs. He'd say dot dogs, so this morning I woke up with dot dogs on my mind."

Jonah and Corrine have not seen the children in over a year. They said DeBlase was granted custody because they could not provide the environment the children deserved.

"He called his son prince he called his daughter princess. At this point, I don't see where he could call them that anymore," said Heathcock.

Now, they wish they would have fought harder for the children and have a message for DeBlase.

"I do have one thing to say to John, if you know where they are, you say you don't know, but I know you do. Tell them where they are. You say you don't remember, you do. And if you don't, Heather does. So one of you better tell them where they are so we can put closure to this thing"

Police narrowed the search down to the area just north of Vancleave, Mississippi. The search will continue early Sunday morning.

DeBlase is being held in Mobile Metro Jail on two counts of aggravated child abuse and two counts of aggravated assault of a corpse.

His wife, Heather Keaton, is being held in Louisville, Kentucky on two counts of willful abuse of a child. Police say she will be extradited to Mobile within a week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Announcing BMCC VIII

Psychology professor Mo Hannah and her students at Siena College in Albany, NY, have done it again!

They have organized the eighth annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference. (You do not need to be physically battered to bear the marks of emotional, psychological, financial, and legal abuse, or to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder--PTSD--due to living with a coercive controller.)

The Court at its worst, just like the abuser, tries to isolate battered mothers from their support system. Mothers who have tried to protect their children from abuse at home find out at BMCC that they are not alone. Lawyers, psychologists and other advocates have joined this effort to protect children from abuse.

Here is the 2011 BMCC flier (Click once on these images to enlarge them):

Monday, October 11, 2010

Parents and advocates march in California

Click on the title above for more information (or enter the link in your browser). Tomorrow, parents and advocates will march in California against many of the same kinds of legal abuse that children are suffering in Rhode Island domestic abuse custody cases. Some Rhode Island parents and advocates will also gather in solidarity across from the Garrahy Court House in Providence.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mothers of Lost Children march on Department of Justice

Thank you, Mothers of Lost Children. Click on title above or paste this link in your browser:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The law favors joint custody regardless of safety

Slain kids' mom tells of abusive marriage

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

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;
DAYA: Serving South Asian Families in Crisis: 713-981-7645;
Asians Against Domestic Abuse: 713-339-8300;
Houston Area Women's Center: 800-799-SAFE (7233),

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When authorities do not listen to victims of abuse

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.)

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

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 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'They still made me send my kids to him'

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
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.

Father fears losing visitation and kills the kids instead

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. 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

Monday, September 20, 2010

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Governor Carcieri's Legacy in Family Court

The Parenting Project has set up a new blog to report on Family Court custody cases that illustrate systemic problems in this court:

We are urging Governor Carcieri to begin the process of reforming this burdened court by asking the five candidates for chief judge (Justices Bedrosian, Capineri, D'Ambra, Forte, and Voccola) about their proposals for change.

These five candidates represent nearly 90 years on this bench. We have much to learn from their recommendations for court reform.

Two of the candidates, Justices Capineri and D'Ambra, spoke in their public interviews before the Judicial Nominating Commission about plans they had submitted to the Governor. We have asked the Governor to release these and any other proposals as public documents. We do not need a chief judge who is satisfied with the status quo.

Rhode Island is the only state that gives judges life tenure with no review.

Governor Carcieri knows that successful businesses need good methods of performance review.

For Rhode Island to "race to the top," our schools must develop sound procedures to evaluate teacher performance.

Likewise, successful courts need reliable methods to evaluate the performance of judges and court officers. Performance review will help to assure greater independence of judges. If it is well designed and properly done, it will guard against conflicts of interest.

We have asked Governor Carcieri to select a chief judge with a clear vision for reforming Family Court. Which of the candidates would endorse a request for private funding to begin a pilot project on judicial performance review in Family Court? That pilot project could set an example for our other courts.

We need a chief judge:
• who is not satisfied with the status quo that rewards political connections and cronies;
• who is committed to identifying systemic problems that place vulnerable children and families at risk;
• who possesses the managerial skill to implement a sound plan for reform; and
• whose strength of leadership can overcome apathy and entrenched resistance to reform.

We ask Governor Carcieri to select a new chief judge of Family Court who will make court reform a major part of the Governor's lasting legacy for Rhode Island.

Friday, July 23, 2010

When children are not believed

Mother sues state workers for ignoring danger signs that led to ex-husband's 2007 murder-suicide that killed her 9-year-old son

Oliver Braman

Nicholas Braman

Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 7:02 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 8:59 AM
John Agar | The Grand Rapids Press

MONTCALM COUNTY -- A federal lawsuit alleges Children's Protective Services workers ignored obvious danger to 9-year-old Nicholas Braman, and kept him in his father's care despite the father's abuse conviction for using an electric cattle prod on two older sons.

"The death of Nicholas Daniel Braman would have been avoided if defendants had simply done what they were obligated to do by law to protect (the boy) from further abuse and neglect ...," attorney Gregory Wix wrote in the civil lawsuit, filed earlier this month by the boy's mother.

The tragedy gained wide attention when Nicholas Braman, along with his father, Oliver Braman, and his stepmother, Elaine Kaczor-Braman, were found dead Oct. 16, 2007, in their Stanton home. The boy was drugged before his father attached his pickup exhaust to the dryer vent of their house, flooding a bedroom with carbon monoxide.

The deaths occurred 11 days after Braman failed to appear for sentencing hearing on child abuse charges.

Adding to the heartbreak was a suicide note young Nicholas had left behind, scrawled in his childish hand, saying he wanted to be with his father and stepmother "forever and ever." While authorities say the boy was too young to make such a decision himself, a portion of his note read, "I take care of my mom and dad just like they take care of me."

The lawsuit alleges Children's Protective Services, under the state Department of Human Services, ignored evidence the boy was at risk with his father. Both a prosecutor and the boy's mother, Rebecca Jasinski of Saginaw, raised red flags.

A month before the deaths, Assistant Montcalm County Prosecutor Misty Davis told CPS that "An investigation should definitely be commenced ... . Oliver literally 'shocked' his older boys with a cattle prod repeatedly. As you know abuse to one child is abuse to all. In my opinion, there is no justification for the youngest boy to remain in the care of this man."

Two weeks later, she told authorities that Braman had pleaded guilty to child abuse charges. The response, just hours before the deaths were discovered: "We've never felt that Nicholas was at risk."
Jasinski had "begged" CPS workers in Saginaw to remove her youngest son from Braman's home, but was denied.

The state agency has admitted that the boy should have been removed from his father's home and placed with his mother.

Named as defendants are: CPS workers Sheri Tyler and Mary Sommers; supervisors Jamie Lovelace and Rhoda Dietrich: former director of the Department of Humane Services Marianna Udow; Laura Champagne, former chief deputy director; Ted Forrest, manager of CPS: and Chad Campbell, director of Community Hope Christian Counseling and Mental Health Center.

Edward Woods III, spokesman for Department of Human Services, said he could not comment on pending litigation, but said the agency continually works to improve services to children.
"Obviously, we're very concerned about the safety of children."

Children's Protective Services workers are represented by the state Attorney General's office, which would not comment on pending litigation. Harvey Heller, attorney for Campbell and the counseling center, declined to comment.

The lawsuit cited the father's "long history of abuse" of his children, including the older boys, Oliver and Tyler.

Among complaints investigated -- and denied -- by CPS, beginning in 1998, were:

• The father abused the children, and struck one so hard blood vessels broke in the child's nose.

• The father threatened to kill Nicholas, who feared his father. The father and his live-in girlfriend pulled out the children's teeth before they were ready to come out on their own.

• The father threw son Oliver off the porch and kicked him because the boy could not find his glasses.

• The father, believing that Oliver was afraid of the dark, left him miles away at night to find his way home. He did the same with Tyler. The boys told CPS workers they were beaten on their bare bottoms, and pliers were put on their fingers.

In 2006, the father was investigated for molesting a child. During that investigation, authorities learned the boys were disciplined with a cattle prod.

"Again, CPS, including defendant Lovelace, denied that the children were being abused or neglected and completely failed to 'investigate, collect evidence, or reach a disposition on the allegation that Mr. Braman used a cattle prod on his children,' according (to) the Office of the Children's Ombudsman," Wix wrote in the lawsuit.

The three boys were living with their father on Aug. 1, 2007, when the older boys called their mother and said they were running away because of abuse. The mother called CPS workers in Saginaw, but was threatened with arrest for kidnapping if she picked them up, she said.
She picked up her two older sons and brought them to Saginaw.

The next day, the boys told CPS workers about the use of a cattle prod. Braman did not deny the abuse, and was arrested by Montcalm County sheriff's deputies.

Sheri Tyler, a CPS worker in Montcalm, confirmed in an e-mail that there was no investigation, which was proper because Saginaw authorities "'did not seek removal,'" the lawsuit said.

The Office of Children's Ombudsman said that regardless of any action by Saginaw authorities, Montcalm CPS should have acted "at the earliest point it became aware of Mr. Braman's egregious acts of abuse ... ," the lawsuit said.

E-mail John Agar:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

GA: Father accused of smothering 5-year-old son

5-Year Old May Have Been Smothered By His Father

Posted By - Ben Mayer
Posted By - Kevin Rowson

Last Updated On: 7/12/2010 10:00:42 PM

DECATUR, Ga. -- A Decatur man is accused of doing the unthinkable. He's charged with murdering his own child, a 5-year old boy.

Police have issued a warrant for Gary DeToma Sr., who was taken into custody at the Eastlake Drive apartment where his son was found dead Monday afternoon.

. . .

Police were . . . called by an attorney who represents DeToma's wife, because the children were not returned to her after spending a weekend visitation with their father.

. . .

According to DeKalb County court records, DeToma and his wife, Melanie, were in a heated divorce and custody battle.

. . . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why we need independent investigation units to inform custody and visitation decisions

Police: Utah man beat, disfigured slain boy
Prosecutors expect to file charges against mom, stepfather on Friday

Associated Press Writers
The Associated Press
updated 9:15 p.m. ET, Wed., May 12, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah stepfather held in the slaying of a 4-year-old child beat him for days before the boy died, then used a hammer to disfigure his face and teeth before burying the body in the mountains, according to police records released late Wednesday.

The body of Ethan Stacy, wrapped in plastic, was unearthed by police on Tuesday.

Interview summaries filed by Layton police detectives documented a pattern of increasingly harsh treatment of the boy, who was sent by a Virginia judge to Utah for a summer visit with his mother.

Investigators said they obtained photographs and video images of the boy's progressively worse condition from the mother's cell phone, starting more than a week ago.

Parents went off to get married
The stepfather, Nathanael Sloop, 31, acknowledged hitting the boy, which caused his face to swell, and leaving him in a locked bedroom on May 6 while the couple went off to get married, according to the probable cause statements.

For the rest of this report, see:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How are custody decisions evaluated?

Elizabeth Brown wiped tears from her eyes Friday morning as she implored a judge to reconsider a plea deal that allows Matthew Roland to serve life in prison instead of receiving the death penalty for the beating death of their daughter, 4-year-old daughter Kristina Hepp, a year ago.

By Karen Voyles
Staff writer

Published: Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:56 p.m.

To see the entire story, go to:

TRENTON, FL - Almost a year after 4-year-old Kristina Hepp was found lifeless inside her Waccasassa mobile home, her father pleaded no contest Friday morning in her death and was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Matthew Roland, 24, pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Circuit Judge Ysleta McDonald sentenced him to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Kristina died April 27, 2009, inside the home where Roland had been living with her and his girlfriend, Chelci Folds, 20, of Mayo. Following an autopsy, the Medical Examiner's Office issued a determination that Kristina could have survived had she received medical care.

In court on Friday morning, Chief Assistant State Attorney Jeanne Singer told McDonald that if the case had gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that Roland had been "torturing or maliciously punishing, causing corneal and genital injuries and other injuries."

Singer also said there would have been testimony that the injuries found on Kristina during an autopsy "had been inflicted over time" and were the result of Roland using his hands and a belt to beat Kristina.

. . .

Absent from court was Folds, who had moved into Roland's home in February 2009, a day or two before he was awarded custody of Kristina.

. . .

Roland allegedly told deputies that while watching his daughter, he "got into it" with her that night and spanked her. Deputies also said Roland told them he hit her with a belt the afternoon of April 26.

. . .

Early the next morning, Roland woke Folds and told her Kristina was not breathing. Roland and Folds said they took the child to the living room, according to the Sheriff's Office, and put her down on the floor. Roland then tried to give her another nebulizer treatment and CPR before calling 911, the Sheriff's Office reported.

According to investigators, Folds spent at least 12 hours with Roland and the injured child without taking steps to care for her injuries.

Folds was charged with child neglect with great bodily harm. She received five years' probation as part of a plea deal in the case. Prosecutors identified Folds as the key witness against Roland.

Eighth Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner Dr. Martha Burt, who went to the Waccasassa mobile home where Kristina was found dead, told Gilchrist County sheriff's investigators that Kristina's multiple injuries were survivable had she received timely medical attention.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where do Fathers' Rights end?

by Jennifer Thomas
Posted on March 31, 2010 at 10:09 AM
Updated today at 5:21 PM

SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- A father reportedly shot his two children and then himself at a Scottsdale home Wednesday morning.

According to Scottsdale police Officer David Pubins, at approximately 8 a.m. 39-year-old Andre Leteve called 911 and said he had shot his child.

When police officers arrived at the home near Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road, they forced entry and found two small boys dead from apparent gunshot wounds. The kids ages are reportedly 5 years old and 15 months old.

Pubins said the father also shot himself. He was transported to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries and is expected to survive.

3TV has learned Leteve was going through a divorce. Both he and his wife had completed parent education classes and were scheduled to appear in court on April 19.

The mother of the children reportedly had plans to take the kids out of state for a vacation and Leteve was attempting to stop those plans.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When social services fail children

Terrorised ... daughters were raped 1,000 times
March 12, 2010
THE monster dad dubbed Britain's Josef Fritzl told his two sex-slave daughters: "If you ever tell, you'll never see your kids again."

Caged ... the evil dad
The sisters were raped 1,000 times and had nine babies by their brutal father - leading to a grovelling apology this week from social services who failed to help them.

Today The Sun can reveal he forced the terrified girls to keep quiet by warning them social workers would seize their babies if they spoke of their 25-year ordeal. One sister sobbed as she said:

We love our kids more than anything in the world. As I got older, he said if I told anyone my children would be taken away from me. I was too scared to tell anyone. Besides, I didn't think anyone would believe me.

When my mum asked me who the father of my first child was, I told her it was a local boy - but I knew the real father was my dad.

Fritzl ... Austrian incest beast
I lost count of how many times he raped me. He started touching me when I was about five. It was going on for years, but I didn't know my sister was also being abused until much later.

At one stage a few years ago I even paid him a few times from my benefits just to stop him. There was no way out.

No one was there for us and we were too terrified of him to tell anyone what was happening.

I pleaded for him to stop but he wouldn't. It took us years to build up the courage to report him. We were under his control.

There was no reaction or heart in him. He would just tell us to go to the bedroom.

Now we just want to get on with our lives. We don't want anyone to know who we are.

I don't know how I'll be able to tell the children who their father is. It's going to be very difficult.

The evil dad, a 57-year-old self-employed businessman, was given 25 life sentences for rape at Sheffield Crown Court 18 months ago and will serve a minimum of 14½ years.

The case had chilling echoes of Austrian incest beast Fritzl, who kept his daughter captive in a cellar for 24 years.

The two girls were made pregnant 18 times.

Seven of the children survived, two died the day they were born and the other pregnancies ended by miscarriage or abortion.

The pair are still traumatised and are receiving counselling. A damning independent report on the case revealed on Wednesday that social workers had suspected the girls' incest nightmare for 11 years.

But instead of taking action, they waited for the victims to speak out. Some social workers were too afraid of the violent, bullying father, the report said.

Senior Department of Health official Professor Pat Cantrill, who wrote the harrowing report, said that it had been wrong and unrealistic to simply expect the sisters to reveal their ordeals.

She added: "These children had been subjected to grave offences and emotional abuse.

"It would have prevented most people from taking the phenomenal step of disclosing what had been happening. Action should have been taken."

Bosses from two bungling councils flanked Prof Cantrill as she spelled out their failings.

Relatives insisted yesterday they DID try to stop the abuse but their tip-offs were not acted upon.

The rapist's cousin blasted: "Social services should have done something. Family members were reporting him but it never went anywhere. This could all have been stopped nearly two decades ago."

The cousin's wife said she told social services more than 20 years ago. It happened after she heard the dad order his daughter, who was getting dressed, to "come back to bed."

She said: "They said they would need corroboration. I kept ringing but I was always being put through to someone different and it never went anywhere."

The dad's mother-in-law - now dead - also reported him to police after catching him in bed with a daughter. And the sisters' brother made allegations but they were never properly investigated.

The horror began as far back as 1980. But the divorced father moved his family to new homes around Sheffield and Lincolnshire 67 times in a bid to escape notice of the authorities. At his trial, it was revealed several children born to his daughters were severely disabled.

But even after he realised genetic damage was being done, the sadistic thug "carried on impregnating his daughters".

He even threatened to kill the girls and their children.

All the family were frightened of him. When they heard his car pulling up outside, the children and their mother hid to avoid beatings. The girls were threatened with "a real hiding" if they refused to have sex.

One said he would hold her head next to the flames of a gas fire if she struggled.

At one stage the sisters were so desperate to halt the abuse they dosed their alcoholic father with huge amounts of whisky in the hope he would die.

One fuming relative blasted: "He's evil - but the social services are a disgrace. They should have done something."

THE boss of a social services that failed to stop the abuse of the "British Fritzl" sisters now runs a consultancy firm - advising councils how to manage their care departments.

Matt Bukowski was director of social services at Lincolnshire County Council from 1996 to 2005.

Care workers suspected as far back as 1997 that the two sisters were giving birth to their rapist dad's children - but took no action to stop the abuse.

Now Mr Bukowski's consultancy Social Care Strategies advises councils on how to run their services.

Its website boasts that the company "built its reputation by helping social care and health organisations make change happen".

Cambridge graduate Mr Bukowski's profile adds: "He is a whole systems thinker with extensive experience of enabling organisations to work more effectively to deliver improved outcomes for their customers."

A social services source said: "He was the man in charge of the department in Lincolnshire at that time. There were concerns about what was going on but nothing was done to stop it."

There is no suggestion Mr Bukowski - whose department got several one-star ratings from Government inspectors - was personally aware of the sisters' case.

But this week a damning report blasted errors by unnamed "professionals" in Lincolnshire and Sheffield.

Prof Pat Cantrill, a Department of Health official, said: "Nearly all the services involved with the family suspected or were aware of the suspicions of incest."

She said a "substantial picture" had emerged by 1997 and added: "Action should have been taken."

Mr Bukowski was not at his Lincoln home yesterday and was not responding to phone calls and messages.

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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Children need court protection

NJ man tells police he tossed baby off bridge

By SAMANTHA HENRY, Associated Press Writer Samantha Henry, Associated Press Writer – 33 mins ago Feb. 17, 2010

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. – A man who told police he threw his infant daughter off a highway bridge into a New Jersey river has been charged with kidnapping and attempted murder.

Police using boats, dogs and a helicopter scoured the area beneath the Garden State Parkway's Driscoll Bridge Wednesday searching for 3-month-old Zara Malani-lin Abdur.

Authorities say the girl's father, 21-year-old Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem of Galloway Township, pulled her from the arms of her grandmother Tuesday in East Orange.

The child's mother, Venetta Benjamin, had sought a restraining order against him, but her lawyer said the baby was snatched before the order was served.

The father was arrested four hours after the abduction at a relative's home in southern New Jersey. He is being held at the Essex County Jail.

(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow. corrects infant's last name, per attorney general's office. Will be led. AP Video.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Father kills 18-month-old for crying

Father Charged In Daughter's Death

Police Claim Guenther Confessed To Striking 1-Year-Old

POSTED: 11:14 am CST February 10, 2010
UPDATED: 7:50 pm CST February 10, 2010


A 22-year-old man is charged with assaulting his 18-month-old daughter while she was in his care. Elizabeth Guenther was pronounced dead Wednesday morning.

Jackson County prosecutors charged Mark A. Guenther with three counts of first-degree assault. Additional charges are possible.

Police said Guenther was at his grandparents' home in Lee's Summit Monday evening when a 911 call came in that the toddler wasn't breathing. The child lives with her mother.

Lee's Summit police claimed that Guenther confessed to striking the child several times. Guenther first claimed his daughter hurt herself when she fell in the bathtub.

According to court documents, when detectives later told him the hospital said the injuries were not consistent with his story, Guenther said he punched the girl on the back of the head with a closed fist because she was crying in her high chair and her head hit the table. When detectives asked him how she acted after that, Guenther said she was quiet and laid there.

The girl was taken to a hospital, but she later died from her injuries, which included a fractured and a bleeding skull, as well as bruising around her neck. "Most significant, though, the medical examiner noted was hemorrhaging in her eyes, which is a term that indicates that the blood vessels in her eyes had burst. This is common in strangulation cases, and that's why we charged one of the assault counts as strangulation," Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said.

Kanatzar said the case demonstrates that suspected child abuse cases need to be taken seriously. There were two previous suspected cases involving the girl from spring 2009 in Cass County.

KMBC's Peggy Breit reported that Guenther's arrangement with the child's mother was that he would take care of his daughter on the weekends.

Guenther is being held on $300,000 bond. Kanatzar said he plans to upgrade the charges to second-degree murder in the coming weeks.

Elizabeth Guenther will be an organ donor, Breit reported.

When asked whether this was a custody case, the reporter responded: I haven't been able to ask about custody details. If I had to guess, I would say they were court-ordered, especially considering the mother had filed several police reports and a domestic assault charge. We filed an open records request to see what resulted from the two separate Department of Family Services investigations in Cass County.

Here is a comment below the online article:
You have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about. Her mother tried and tried to get something done so that she did not have to go see her father. She had DFS out to his house, they found nothing...She filed for an order of protection on a couple different occassions...they were dismissed...She refused to let her see her dad until her back was up to the wall...the court systems had tied her hands and she had no other choices but to let her sweet baby go to her dads house and hope that everything was far as your 'information' is concerned it is inaccurate...attacking her mother in this of all times???? You have no idea!!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

This child should have been protected by the judge from visitation

Meaghan M. McDermott and Nestor Ramos
• Staff writers • February 14, 2010

GREECE, NY — A Greece man who killed his son and himself Friday was receiving counseling but had lost hope, his mother said.

Carol Gurgel said she’d urged her son, Mark P. Resch, to seek help, and he’d met with a
counselor in the days before he killed his 7-year-old son Hunter and then fatally shot himself.

“I was in contact with him every day. I knew he was overwhelmed with it all,” Gurgel said.
Resch had lost his job and his car at the beginning of the year, and learned recently that his wife was seeking a divorce.

“Just these last couple of days … he’d kind of given up,” Gurgel said. She said Resch, a
recovering alcoholic, had been telling relatives not to bother worrying about him.

“He’s a very generous, gentle kind person,” Gurgel said. “But he did have mental issues.”

According to police, Mark Resch's apparent motive was revenge against his estranged wife.

"There was an ongoing domestic dispute, and this act was definitely a very spiteful, very aggressive act," said Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter. "This person was a mean person and was doing this pure out of spite."

According to a statement released Saturday by the Greece Central School District, Hunter T. Resch, 7, was a first-grader at Paddy Hill Elementary School on Latta Road. The district will offer counseling for students and their parents.

In a written statement, Hunter T. Resch's teacher, Cathy Carpenter, said he was a wonderful child and was well-liked.

"He loved to learn and explore and was so excited to be with his friends," she said.

Police were called to the yellow-clapboard house on Island Cottage Road about 7:30 p.m. Friday, alerted by a 911 call from Hunter T. Resch's mother asking that they check on the welfare of her son, who was staying with his father as part of a court-ordered visitation.

Baxter said the woman was alarmed by a phone conversation she'd just had with her estranged husband, who told her "you'll never make it here in time" to pick up the boy.

Baxter said the woman had left her husband on Jan. 25, the same day she secured a temporary order of protection against him in Monroe County Family Court for alleged threats against her life.

As part of that order, the man was prohibited from owning any guns, so police removed one shotgun from the Island Cottage Drive home at that time.

The man denied owning any others.

Baxter said police were investigating to see how the man got hold of the shotgun used in the killings.

On Monday, Baxter said, Family Court had issued a permanent restraining order against the man. The order included visitation with his son on some weekdays and alternate weekends, he said.

After the 911 call, police arrived at the home within six minutes. Through a front window, they could see a severely injured child on a couch in the living room.

In an effort to save the boy, officers immediately entered the house, where they found the man dead of a gunshot wound just inside the back door. The child was also dead.

Baxter said police found a long note, written over more than a week, that outlined the man's plan to kill his son.

He would not discuss details of the note, which he called "five or six pages of a lot of hate, anger and spite," but said it proved the act was premeditated.

"He thought about this for more than a week, with no indication to us, his wife or the courts," said Baxter. "He talked about how he was going to do it, and our investigation reveals that he pretty much carried out his plan in how he did it. That kid had no chance."

Police held debriefing and counseling sessions for involved officers and the victim's family on Saturday.

Christopher and Cheryl Irick of Island Cottage Road awoke Saturday to news of the murder-suicide. The couple said they never knew Resch or his family and that the neighborhood has always been quiet.

"That's one of the things that attracted us to here," said Christopher Irick. "And the fact that this happened across from the police station makes it even more shocking. It's such an incredibly sad story."

Calling hours for Hunter T. Resch will be from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Vay - Schleich & Meeson Funeral Home, 1075 Long Pond Road, Greece. A service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 3003 Dewey Ave.

Includes reporting by staff writers Chad Roberts, Ernst Lamothe and Gary McLend

Why do judges fail to protect children from forced visitation with dangerous parents?

Father, young son found dead in apparent murder-suicide in Greece, NY

GREECE -- Police said a 39-year-old man shot and killed his 7-year-old son and then committed suicide in a house at 491 Island Cottage Road last night.

Chief Todd Baxter of the Greece Police Department said names of the victims have not been released yet, pending identification by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's office.

Baxter said the mother of the child, who was estranged from her husband who lived at 491 Island Cottage, called 911 last evening asking police to check on the welfare of her child.

The house is located directly across Island Cottage Road from the access road leading to the Greece Police Department.

"The wife was responding to the house at the same time we were responding," Baxter said. "She was coming from another location."

When officers arrived at the address at about 7:30, they first checked the exterior of the house, then discovered the grisly scene when they looked inside.

"They peered through one of the windows and they saw an apparent gunshot victim inside the location, in the living room," Baxter said. "They immediately made entry into the house to try and secure that victim. Upon entering the house, the officers found a second victim just inside the back door of the house. That victim was also apparently dead on arrival from a gunshot wound."

Baxter said that the father picked up his son earlier Friday from the mother's residence for a scheduled visitation period. The mother had received an order of protection against her husband on Jan. 25, and at that time, weapons had been cleared from the Island Cottage Road address by police, Baxter said. A second order was issued on Feb. 8.

Baxter said that yesterday evening, the boy's mother became concerned with his welfare after speaking to the boy's father on the phone.

"She called from an area on Ridge Road," Baxter said. "She got worried about her son based on conversations she was having with the male at the house. So she was starting to respond here. While she was responding, she also called 911 and asked us to go check on the welfare of the child. The officers beat her to the scene and were just doing the preliminary check on the exterior of the house when she arrived."

Baxter, who is in his first week as chief of police in Greece after a long career with the Rochester Police Department, said the situation was a difficult one for everybody involved.

"It is very traumatic on the family, the family is extremely distraught, both sides of the family," Baxter said. "The officers are quite upset, the ones that had to go inside and see the child in that condition. It is a very traumatic situation."

Baxter said that the father had left at least one note inside the house that referred to Friday's shootings.

Baxter said the weapon used in the shootings appeared to be a shotgun.

Includes reporting by staff writer Gary McLendon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dead baby beaten by father for being a girl

Polk Man Gets 15 Years for Baby Girl's Death
Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:55 pm (PST)

By Jason Geary

Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 12:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.

BARTOW A Winter Haven man accused of beating his 4-month-old daughter because he wanted a boy instead of a girl was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison for the child's death.

Marcos Gomez-Romero, 30, pleaded no contest to aggravated manslaughter. A charge of child abuse was dropped as part of a plea deal.

Originally, a grand jury indicted Gomez-Romero on Jan. 10, 2008, on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty.

But the cause of death for the child was further explored as the case proceeded to trial.

“It became clear that, while the attitude of the father of the child was horrible, there were problems related to determining the actual cause of the child's death,” said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman with the State Attorney's Office.

The plea agreement was a difficult decision to make, he said.

During Wednesday's hearing, Gomez-Romero's lawyer, Austin Maslanik, described the child's death as a terrible tragedy.

He said his client loved both his daughter and his son.

Ariana Rodriguez Romero died on Christmas Day in 2007.

Rescue workers went to the girl's home on 3145 Ave. Q N.W. after being called about the baby being unresponsive. The girl was taken to Winter Haven Hospital and pronounced dead at 9:59 a.m.

An emergency room doctor told detectives that the girl's trachea was full of baby formula, which was consistent with the girl choking on the food, according to investigative reports.

However, an autopsy later found the baby suffered from numerous injuries, including multiple new and old rib fractures.

In addition, the baby had a bruised liver, a hematoma and laceration on her spleen, a hemorrhage in her left eye, a bruise on her shoulder blade, a hemorrhage to a back muscle, and bruising on each side of the mouth near the lower jaw.

Gomez-Romero told a detective that he had been bottle-feeding the girl when she began to choke from eating too fast and stopped breathing, reports state.

He suggested some of the girls' injuries could have been caused as he tried to revive her.

The child's mother, Juana Rodriguez, told detectives that Gomez-Romero hated the girl and was violent toward the baby, but he would threaten to leave with their 2-year-old son if she called the police.

Rodriguez told the detective that Gomez-Romero “loves and worships” their son and was never abusive toward him.

Under further questioning, Gomez-Romero told the detective that he would spank the girl on the buttocks, and grab and squeeze her torso, and would carry her by her hands and arms allowing her to hang, reports state.

“He would become so bothered and angry if Ariana slept too long that he would slap her on the rib cage to wake her,” the report states.

Gomez-Romero told the detective that he wanted a boy instead of a girl, and in anger would call her ugly and a prostitute as well as say that he did not love her, reports state.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

King of his Castle: Custody murders in 2010

Jan Kurth compiled a list of custody murders in 2010. When will custody courts notice?

Freeman, Arthur Philip. Threw 3-year-old daughter off bridge, killing her. Had court-ordered visitation.

Fuentes, Jesus Roman. Shot to death 4-year-old son during visitation.

Garcia, Stephen Charles. Shot to death 9-month-old son during court-ordered visitation. Mother's pleas ignored by 3 judges.

Brown, Cameron. Facing third trial for murdering 4-year-old daughter by pushing her off cliff. Allegedly wanted to avoid child support.

McKenzie, Kelly David. Murdered girlfriend while 9-year-old son was in his home on an "access visit."

Kang, Liu. Beat to death 12-year-old daughter. Appears to have been custodial father (divorced from girl's mother, girl lived with father).

Bacon, Nicholas. Shot to death 9-month-old son during visitation. Had joint custody.

Bohannon, Ronald A. Shot to death 14-month-old son during visitation. Convicted of reckless homicide.

Frazier, Timothy. Murdered 21-month-old son after obtaining custody with police help through fraudulent EPO. Mother is now suing the police and the City.

Robinson, Nathaniel. Murdered 3-year-old son after obtaining custody 1 month before.

Mammone, James III. Stabbed his two children to death, beat to death former mother-in-law. Had been granted visitation rights.

Cockerel, Donald L. Along with girlfriend, charged with starving, beating to death 3-year-old daughter. Dad had "shared custody," but had been refusing to return the child to her mother.

Hensvold, Martin. Shot his ex-wife "execution style" while she was picking up their 2-year-old son.

Desormeaux, Leo IV. Murdered 21-month-old son during visitation.

Watrous, Duke Lawrence. Custodial father who shot to death 10-year-old daughter.

Copland, Andrew. Murdered his 4-year-old daughter and her mother while the mother was dropping off the child for an "access visit."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Second father-son murder-suicide in two weeks

Hesperia boy, 4, found slain in vehicle with father

By Melissa Pinion-Whitt
Posted: 02/09/2010 06:55:44 AM PST

A Hesperia man shot his 4-year-old son and then turned the gun on himself Monday in the county's second shooting involving a father and son in less than two weeks.

Jesus Roman Fuentes Jr., 34, and his son were flown to a hospital, where the boy died of his wounds. Fuentes was in critical condition, San Bernardino County coroner's officials said.

Motorists found the pair at 6:11 p.m. after Fuentes intentionally crashed his car into a guard rail on Highway 138 north of the entrance to Lake Silverwood.

Paramedics discovered both occupants of the car had suffered gunshot wounds. Coroner's officials said Fuentes shot his son and then himself after crashing the vehicle.

San Bernardino County sheriff's homicide detectives are investigating the shooting.

The incident came nine days after a Pinon Hills man and his 9-month-old son were found dead in Twin Peaks. Sheriff's officials said Stephen Garcia, 25, took his son Wyatt Garcia, of Yucca Valley, during a court-ordered visitation. He threatened to kill the child and then commit suicide.

Their bodies were found Jan. 31 inside a vehicle in the 26000 block of Old Toll Road. Homicide detectives are investigating the apparent murder-suicide.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When custody courts don't care about children

This account comes from the following blog:

08 Feb 2010 10:21 am
A US soldier waterboards his own child

The British Daily Mail - a populist right-wing paper - reports this:

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet. Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry. As his daughter 'squirmed' to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline. Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water . . . .

[T]he terrified girl was found hiding in a closet, with bruising on her back and scratch marks on her neck and throat. Asked how she got the bruises, the girl is said to have replied: 'Daddy did it.'

. . . a foreign newspaper uses plain English to describe torturing victims by use of near-drowning: the "CIA torture technique."

No US paper has yet to report the story. . . .

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When judges don't believe the violence

A massive new study out of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services claims a decline in abuse of children. Is it true? Or is it just that authorities do not believe mothers and children who report domestic violence?

Deadly consequences: Judges rejected mom's bid for restraining order

by Beatriz Valenzuela
2010-02-03 17:48:43

VICTORVILLE • A woman whose ex-boyfriend murdered their infant son and then killed himself had sought a restraining order from two San Bernardino County judges only days before the murder-suicide, according to court records (click here to view records) obtained by the Daily Press.

Katie Tagle petitioned two San Bernardino County court judges for a restraining order only days before her former boyfriend, Stephen Garcia, killed himself and their 9-month-old son, Wyatt. Both requests were denied — in spite of Tagle telling a local judge that Garcia had threatened to kill their son.

“My suspicion is you’re lying,” Judge Robert Lemkau said, according to transcripts from a Jan. 21 hearing in Victorville court, “but I’m keeping the custody orders in full force and effect.”

Wyatt was then turned over to Garcia that day. Both Garcia and the child were found dead 10 days later on a Twin Peaks dirt road, after Garcia took Wyatt during a court-ordered visitation.

“Having that restraining order really could’ve helped this situation and possibly may have swayed a judge to grant supervised visitations,” said Anita Gomez, case manager for A Better Way Domestic Violence Shelter.

Lemkau, who couldn’t be reached for comment, denied to make permanent a temporary restraining order signed by another judge — who at first denied Tagle’s original restraining order request.

Family members said when Tagle went in front of Judge David Mazurek in a Joshua Tree courtroom on Jan. 12, Mazurek denied the permanent restraining order despite the 23-year-old reporting Garcia had recently been abusive to her.

Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at

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: