Thursday, May 06, 2010

When Fathers Kill Their Kids - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

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BS Top - Tabachnick Custody Crime In the past nine months, 75 kids were murdered by their dads during custody battles. Cara Tabachnick of The Crime Report goes inside a horrific cycle of violence—and the family courts doing little to stop it.

Wyatt Garcia was born in April 2009. Nine months later, he was shot and killed by his father, who then turned the gun on himself.

It might have turned out differently—if a family-court judge had listened to Wyatt’s mother.

Stephen Garcia, 25, a Pinon Hills, California, contractor, had been allowed unsupervised visits with his son only a few days earlier by San Bernardino County Superior Judge Robert Lemkau, who was adjudicating a bitter custody battle between Garcia and the boy’s mother, Katie Tagle. The judge had refused to take seriously her repeated warnings of her ex-boyfriend’s violent and abusive behavior.

“Courts assume mothers are orchestrating misinformation, instead of trying to protect their children.”

Shortly after Wyatt was born, she left Garcia after he hit her so hard during an argument about his videogame addiction that “he knocked me out,” Tagle said. After she moved home to her parents’, her ex-boyfriend began harassing her and her family when he learned she was dating again, and he filed a motion for custody of little Wyatt. In turn, she filed three motions for an order of protection against Garcia, which were ignored. In the last motion, she charged that he had threatened to kill her and their baby.

Judge Lemkau, however, chose to believe her former boyfriend’s denials rather than the evidence she supplied of Garcia’s threats, including emails, text messages, and voice messages. Although no extenuating circumstances were raised in court transcripts of the case, the judge simply accused Tagle of lying, and ordered that she turn Wyatt over to his father—with fatal results.

Tagle, 23, says the odds against her and Wyatt were stacked the moment her case entered the emotional, chaotic world of the family-court system.

“I was treated like a criminal, like a complaining woman,” she says.

The story of baby Wyatt Garcia is, sadly, not unusual.

In the ten months between June 2009 and April 2010, 75 children were killed by fathers involved in volatile custody battles with their former partners, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization that has been tracking news articles of such deaths around the U.S.

Some recent examples from the dockets of family courts around the country:

• Teigan Peters Brown (3 years old), shot to death by his father during a court-ordered visit. (Arizona, June 2009)

• Bekm Bacon (8 months old), killed by father, who then killed himself during overnight visitation. (Idaho, February 2010)

• Janiyah Nicole Hale (1 year old), father is charged with her death during an overnight visitation. He is a registered sex offender. (Alabama, July 2009)

How did a system set up to protect families and children allow this to happen?

Such tragedies are the consequences of family-court procedures that allow abusive spouses to manipulate the system and leave at-risk children at the mercy of prolonged, expensive court battles over custody. These battles end all too often with a parent forced to share unsupervised custody with an abusive spouse.

I don't usually like putting this stuff up, but I feel this is something everyone should be aware of.

Posted via web from Completely Barking Mad

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