The Genocide of Battered Mothers and their Children

Posts Tagged ‘report’

‘If You Leave Me I Will Kill You’

In domestic law on August 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm
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Last October, Rebecca Robertson and her boyfriend were arguing in their garage, relatives said, when she came out and told him: I’m leaving you.

The couple had known each other for more than a decade and had a daughter together. They had planned to marry.

As they argued into the early morning, Robertson went into their northeast Charlotte home for a cigarette, and her boyfriend, Barry Leake, followed.

“What you going to do?” Robertson asked him, according to a relative at the home. “Kill me in front of my kids?”

The Domestic Violence Advocacy Council marched in response to the killing last month of Ebony Taylor, Charlotte’s most recent domestic homicide. Davie Hinshaw –

On the sofa, Robertson’s three children and their three young cousins slept.

Leake turned and shot his 31-year-old girlfriend. As the horrified children ran screaming into the street, Robertson, 39, shot himself. By the time police arrived, both were dead.

Robertson’s death illustrates the danger women often face when they decide to leave abusive partners – a danger highlighted in a new Mecklenburg report: “If You Leave Me I Will Kill You.”

In three of four cases that a local task force reviewed for that report, victims heard some version of that threat before their husbands or boyfriends killed them.

The Mecklenburg County Domestic Violence Fatality Prevention and Protection Review Team is a pilot project created by the state in 2009 to identify gaps in services and promote communication among agencies that investigate and intervene in domestic violence. The goal: Prevent domestic violence-related deaths. Mecklenburg County is the only one in the state that has such a review team.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police respond to about 35,000 calls about domestic violence each year, according to the report.

“Our numbers are disturbingly high,” said retired District Judge Jane Harper, who heads the team. “There’s a disconnect between the innovative programming and the consistently high numbers.”

‘I’ll kill you with this’

Last year, nine people died in intimate partner killings in the county, according to the Mecklenburg Women’s Commission. So far this year, two have died. Each year since 2002, Mecklenburg has led the state in domestic violence homicides.

The fatality review team is prohibited from naming people involved in the homicides they reviewed, but the report finds common factors in each.

In all four cases, the victims were women and their abusers men.

One victim died of a gunshot wound, two were strangled and the other died from blunt force head trauma.

In two of the cases, the suspect committed suicide immediately after the killing.

At least three of the four killers had previously made death threats to their victims. One man showed his victim a gun and told her, “I’ll kill you with this,” according to the report.

Finally, friends, family or co-workers knew about the violence or threats leading up to each killing.

“Some … expressed their concern to the victim and encouraged her to leave her abuser,” the report said. “But not one person reported the abuse to law enforcement.”

Other findings:

None of the women ever sought a domestic violence protective order against their abusers, even though one of the men had been charged with violence against the woman he later killed.

Only one woman was in contact with a domestic violence service provider, and apparently none ever told health care providers about their abuse, including one woman who made several trips to the emergency room.

Nowhere to turn

A domestic violence survivor on the review team recalled her own violent three-year marriage. When she was eight months pregnant, her husband kicked her in the stomach and pushed her down a flight of stairs.

It’s wasn’t until later that she found the courage to leave. She remembered hearing her young son scream as his father broke down a door during an argument.

“No, I’m not having this,” she told herself. “I’m going to end up going down the stairs again.”

As she reviewed the homicides for the report, she thought back to her own abuse. She could feel the women’s frustration and pain.

“They didn’t know where to turn.”

The team’s report includes recommendations for police, the courts, health care professionals, local domestic violence agencies and even friends and family who suspect a loved one is being abused.

The report encourages prosecutors to have convicted abusers ordered to complete batterer intervention treatment programs.

The team found that primary care providers and obstetric and gynecological offices should screen for domestic violence, as well as emergency room staff.

Signs of strangulation

Angie Alexander, the forensic program coordinator at Carolinas Medical Center, said every female age 12 and older who comes to the hospital’s emergency room is screened for domestic violence, regardless of the reason for her visit. Men are also screened if their injuries appear suspicious.

The report said doctors and nurses should make it clear to victims when injuries must be reported to police – such as injuries caused by a weapon or those that cause grave bodily harm. Victims fearing reprisal might not reveal how they were hurt if they believe it will be reported to police.

Many of the report’s recommendations were for police, who the team found had insufficient training to handle the high volume of domestic violence calls they receive.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department requires 12 hours of domestic violence training for recruits and two hours more every other year.

But the report said that’s not enough. It suggests additional training and strategies including:

Temporarily seizing weapons in a home where violence has occurred.

Staying with a victim until her safety is reasonably assured.

Identifying signs of strangulation – a common means of attack that often leaves little physical evidence.

A death prevented?

Police in some areas of Charlotte are experimenting with new efforts to combat domestic violence homicides.

Talk of making changes in three of the police department’s 13 divisions began last year after the murder-suicide involving Rebecca Robertson.

A victim of domestic violence is 70 percent more likely to be injured or killed when she is leaving her abuser, said Amanda Wilson, United Family Services’ director of strategic initiatives and advocacy.

If Robertson had established a relationship with police maybe she would have called to let an officer know she was leaving her boyfriend, said Capt. Gregg Collins, commander of CMPD’s Freedom Division.

“We might have prevented that one,” Collins said.

To read the full report, visit



CT: Report: Most Domestic Homicide Victims WERE UNABLE TO LEAVE with THEIR CHILDREN.

In domestic law on July 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Once again it’s the victims fault for not doing enough and not the perps fault.
If a woman does complain about abuse she risks losing her kids to cps as well as risking losing her kids to her abuser.

The real problems are that women are not allowed to just leave and there is no money for them to be able to do this. Only FATHERHOOD FUNDING for the BATTERER to take the Mothers Children.

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Also, Children Are Often Present When Killings Take Place

Most victims of deadly domestic violence didn’t reach out to their local family violence agencies for help, a new study shows.

The Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee also has learned that children often were present when the victims were killed.

The trends came to light as the committee studied the circumstances of the deaths of intimate partners during clashes across the state. Although the review team has been in place for a decade, this is its first report, said Karen Jarmoc, interim executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which oversees the committee’s work.



Seattle Times special report: Twisted ethics of an expert witness

In domestic law on June 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm
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Stuart Greenberg was at the top of his profession: a renowned forensic psychologist who in court could determine which parent got custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault. Trouble is, he built his career on hypocrisy and lies, and as a result, he destroyed lives, including his own.

Stuart Greenberg

For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.

Greenberg had proved such a toxic force — a poison coursing through the state’s court system — that it took more than three years for lawyers and judges to sift through his victims and account for the damage done.

The reporting for this story

To uncover the secrets Stuart Greenberg had buried, The Seattle Times got court files unsealed in the superior courts of King and Thurston counties. Through a motion filed by the state Attorney General’s Office, the newspaper also got an order lifted that barred public inspection of Greenberg’s disciplinary history. Reporters obtained other documents — for example, Greenberg’s emails at the University of Washington — through public-records requests, and interviewed colleagues of Greenberg, as well as parents he had evaluated.

But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. In the years since Greenberg’s death, while court officials wrestled over his estate, The Seattle Times worked to unearth Greenberg’s secrets, getting court records unsealed and disciplinary records opened.

Those records are a testament to Greenberg’s cunning. They show how he played the courts for a fool. He played state regulators for a fool. He played his fellow psychologists for a fool. And were it not for a hidden camera, he might have gotten away with it.

Hiding his past

“That is boilerplate,” says Terry West, who was the Examining Board of Psychology’s program manager at the time. “That’s standard language in any stipulation.”




In domestic law on June 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm
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Confusion on the Role of Law Guardians
The Matrimonial Commission’s Report and the Need for Change

Confusion on the Role of Law Guardians
The Matrimonial Commission’s Report and the Need for Change
By Nancy S. Erickson

n February 2006, after holding many hearings throughout the state, the Matrimonial Commission appointed by Judge
Judith Kaye and headed by Judge Sondra Miller issued a final report addressing many issues important to the matri-

monial Bar, including issues regarding law guardians for children. The Commission made a good start in the quest to
deal with problems surrounding the law guardian system; for example, it recommended that the term “law guardian” be
replaced by “attorney for the child” (AC), because the term “law guardian” can cause confusion in the minds of attor-
neys and litigants alike. However, in spite of the clarification a name change might bring, there remains much confusion
as to the role and power of the AC. Without clarity on this issue, the children, the courts and the public will remain
unprotected against ACs who misuse their power in that role



GAL Power

In domestic law on June 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Also see: The Guardian Ad Litem Scandals – Legislative Reforms Needed

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A guardian ad litem report lead to a change in child custody. The report was a product of “shoddy investigation” and involves “lies told in court,” according to a source.
Divorced parents with minor children often fight over custody and visitation rights, producing courtroom decisions that are complex and often heartbreaking for at least one parent. This story takes a rare public look into that system for two reasons:
First, it involves the kind of complicated, personal and family situations that make these cases so difficult to adjudicate. Secondly, there is the additional drama of conflict combined with allegations of questionable performances among the justice system officials themselves.
Clark County Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg recently removed two children from their mother’s home, even though no petition for such action was before the court. Schienberg based her temporary decision on an allegedly flawed report prepared by a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL).
When the mother’s attorney criticized the GAL report and refused to apologize for her comments, the commissioner held the attorney in contempt and fined her $500.
The commissioner’s ruling is under appeal, with a hearing pending. Meanwhile, the two minor children have been moved to the custody of their father. He has issued multiple threats of legal action against the writer and any publication who would publish a story about this case.
In Washington State, court commissioners are appointed by superior court judges. They are not elected by the public, but they have many of the same responsibilities and authorities as a superior court judge.

A family law guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child, often during divorce or custody proceedings. In addition to family law matters, a GAL can be appointed to assist anyone a court deems legally incapacitated. Clark County commissioners and judges appointed GALs 396 times in 2010, according to Superior Court Administrator Jeffrey Amram.

GAL reports are confidential. However, the author obtained a copy of the GAL report from an undisclosed source after concerns were raised about contents of the report and the commissioner’s ruling.

In August 2008, the mother received “primary residential placement” of the two minor children as part of a court-approved parenting plan. After more than two years of continuing conflict between the parents, the father filed an October 2010 contempt motion against the mother for violation of visitation rights.

Case didn’t seek custody
The commissioner, in early December, held the mother in contempt for certain violations. At the same time, she approved a motion to require that transfer of the children for visitation times take place at the Vancouver police station due to conflict between the parties.

In November, the mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, asking for restricted visitation time with the father until he received counseling for anger management. The father, responding in December, said there was insufficient proof for a major modification of that plan.

That is the issue before the court that led to the appointment of Vancouver attorney Meredith McKell Graff as Guardian ad Litem to investigate the matter.

According to the mother’s attorney, Vancouver attorney April Brinkman, the GAL report was supposed to be finished by the first of February 2011. However, it was not submitted to the court until May 12, and it came with a blockbuster recommendation that the children be removed from the mother’s home and the father be given primary residential placement.

A source close to the case, who asked not to be identified, said there were significant concerns about the integrity of that 26-page report, which were ignored by Commissioner Schienberg. The source called the report a product of “shoddy investigation” and involved “lies told in court” by Graff.

One of the more disturbing allegations against the mother is referred to as the “wiener game.” It was reported to Child Protective Services at an unspecified time, according to the confidential GAL report. While bathing with her children, the report says, the mother “taught each boy how to stimulate himself to erection… then balance an action figure toy on their erect penis. The longer they can hold the toy on their penis is the winner (sic).”

It has been almost a decade since the Clark County parents in this case were divorced. Subsequent battles over custody of their children have included numerous allegations between the parties of child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and harassment.
The father allegedly has forced his children to write false accusations against their month, including allegations outlines in a recent police report. In that June 1 report, Battle Ground Officer Joshua Phelps wrote:
“I asked [redacted] about his mom making him lie about things. [Redacted] told me that she did not do that, but their father told them to write that down.”
It doesn’t appear, at this time, that police or Child Protective Services have substantiated allegations against either parent, but due to the long record of conflict it’s no surprise that the court saw need for an independent and objective view of a GAL.
A lie in court? 
Attorney Meredith Graff did not respond to several requests for comment. For updates on the case, visit the blog, VanVoice Blotter, at

to the father and his current wife, stating:

“The guardian ad litem is also an attorney and these minors (sic) attorney, and she informed us today that if you print or allow Mr. Griffith to print a story about

AL investigation takes a turn 

The court order appointing Meredith McKell Graff as GAL instructed her to “investigate and report the factual information to the court concerning parenting arrangements” of the two children. Graff’s final report was unequivocal in its recommendation.

“The children in this matter… are at extreme risk of harm if they remain any longer in the mother’s home,” the report states. “They should be removed immediately.”

Subsequent concerns about the GAL report are voiced prominently by the mother’s attorney in the motion for reversal of Commissioner Schienberg’s temporary order.

High on the list of concerns about the May 12 report is a statement by Graff that she interviewed the references for both parents. That conflicts with her statement of May 24 in which she declared, “I did not interview (the mother’s reference); my legal assistant performed this task.”

Neither statement revealed the actual fact that Graff’s assistant, Heidi Atwood, actually interviewed all four references listed in the report.

“As the guardian ad litem’s legal assistant,” wrote Atwood in her May 24 declaration to the court, “in order to save time… I was given the assignment of calling all the guardian ad litem references and asking them the questions requested by the guardian ad litem … ”

Atwood is not listed on the court-approved guardian ad litem registry, and there’s no record that she has completed any of the required training to work as guardian ad litem. She is a 40-year-old college student at Washington State University whose only professional license in Washington is as a Notary Public, according to Graff’s law office and state documents. 


A lie in court? 

Court transcripts of the June 2 hearing include Graff’s statement that she couldn’t obtain a release from the mother to get medical records. “Because (the mother) did not sign a HIPAA release with her doctor … I did not get medical records from the mother,” said Graff.

However, Brinkman has since filed with the court a copy of just such a release, signed by the mother on March 29 and faxed to Graff’s office, according to Brinkman. 

Further, Graff didn’t need that release to get the information. The court order appointing her includes a signed “release of information” provision giving her access to all pertinent records, specifically including health care records, for both parents.

The GAL report says that Graff has “minimal concerns with the father,” despite the fact that she quoted a 2007 psychological evaluation saying that the father has “issues with chronic and intense anger;” that he is “not able to express negative feeling appropriately;” that he is “over-controlled with brief, impulsive episodes of acting out;” and that he is “sensitive to rejection and has a subtle paranoia that is expressed as jealously or possessiveness. He can be hostile when criticized and has little self-awareness.”

The doctor who conducted that psychological evaluation of the father also evaluated his current wife, saying she is “aggressive and striving,” and “defines her view as the correct one and assumes that to disagree with her is simply a demonstration of one’s lack of understanding.”

Graff’s report did not disagree with that impression, but said the children need a controlling adult in their lives. “Even though the father’s wife may appear to some that she is ‘controlling,’ she is actually what the boys need right now,” Graff wrote.

The report recommended that both parents enter counseling, but held “no reservations” about having the children moved to primary residency with their father.


Many issues of credibility 

Graff used Child Protective Services reports to help form her recommendation that the children face eminent harm in the mother’s care. However, none of the allegations against the mother have been substantiated by Child Protective Services, police or the county prosecutor’s office, according to available court documents.  

Graff considered various allegations of both parents to be less than credible.

“The parents — both of them — have engaged in CPS and the police far too often, and too many times with false or misleading information, in order to discredit the other parent,” Graff stated.

It’s not clear, then, why allegations from one side would become grounds for such a significant recommendation. There is also a matter of various subjective and inflammatory words and phrases used in the report.

The report at one point says that the mother “remade herself into a sexual abuse zombie,” and later says a photo of the mother and her new husband “shows them tonguing like reptiles.” Nothing clarified the use of those phrases as part of an evaluation of parenting skills.

The GAL report also indicates that Graff did not interview the children’s doctors, teachers, psychologists or neighbors.


Lack of balance in interviews 

Graff — or rather, her assistant, Atwood — interviewed three references for the father but only one for the mother, an imbalance that casts doubt on fairness of the investigation. And despite Graff being assigned the investigation in December, Atwood didn’t start requesting interviews with the mother’s references until May 10, according to numerous court documents and the declaration of a veteran Oregon police officer.

Officer Jason Maddy stated, “The law office of McKell Graff left a voicemail for me Tuesday, May 10, 2011, sometime during the afternoon. Records indicate that the voicemail was the first and only time that Atwood called Maddy. He planned to call Atwood on May 13, but Graff completed her report on May 11.

Maddy, an experienced investigator, was bothered by the one-day callback window. “I would never even think of just calling someone and leaving a message and writing the report the next day without hearing from them,” Maddy stated. He further stated that he “would have been able to provide very important information about how I have seen (the mother) interact with her children.”

Another reference provided by the mother said she didn’t receive the request for an interview until May 11. By the time she called Graff’s law office the report already was filed, and Atwood wouldn’t document what she said would have been favorable statements about the mother.

Even more disturbing, although Graff may have stopped taking statements in support of the mother on May 11, she continued taking statements against the mother even after the report was filed with the court. In her May 24 declaration, Graff references new allegations against the mother that surfaced after the confidential report was filed on May 12.

“I have been now told,” wrote Graph in that declaration, “that the children have been punished for telling me things that the mother did not want me to know or the children to tell me.”


Second-hand allegations 

Graff appears to have disregarded her direct observations of the mother’s house in favor of statements from unidentified sources.

 “The mother’s home is chaotic and dirty,” Graff stated in her report. However, she wrote that the house was staged to look clean during her lone visit there.

“The mother made a point of having me go ‘say goodnight’ to each boy before beginning the interview,” Graff wrote. “I am concerned this was an effort to get me to walk down the hall to show me that the house was ‘neat,’ rather than how it had been prior to its staging for my visit.”

The report cited an unnamed source who reported to Graff that the mother put a large amount of “stuff” in storage so Graff would not see the usual state of the house.

In contrast, Graff was very impressed with the father’s home, where she made multiple visits. She wrote: “Going in, one feels a sense of peace and calm.” Although records indicate that there was only one investigative interview at the father’s house, Graff wrote, “I have been to the (father’s) home on more than occasion.”

The father’s house is in an upscale neighborhood, and court documents indicate that the father makes substantially more money than the mother. Graff said, however, that those factors were not taken into consideration in her recommendation.

“To be clear,” she wrote, “my recommendation for (the father) being named the primary residential parent is not based on socio-economic factors. I have been appointed in other cases where the recommended placement was for the poorer home of the two parents.”

She continued, in one of the report’s more unusual narratives: “One can be clean, neat, organized, and poor, with clean, ragged clothes and one can have money and worldly possessions and be dirty, chaotic, and provide no supervision for children, along with allowing them to be sexually abused within the grand, expensive home.”


GAL invoices for thousands more 

Graff is seeking payment of almost $2,500 more than was first authorized by the court, which wrote in its appointing order: “The guardian ad litem fee is $75 per hour up to $750, the maximum the guardian ad litem may charge without additional court review and approval.”

That full $750 was paid months ago through combined payments from the parents. But according to Graff, she has racked up 41.6 hours to date for a total bill of $3,120. She stated in a court document that it would be “appropriate for the court to order the parties to share an additional $2,370.”

The GAL invoice does not explain how many hours her assistant worked, of whether those hours are included in the billing.


Commissioner’s fully endorses report 

The June 2 hearing, held in open court, included specific reference to contents of the confidential GAL report. And Commissioner Schienberg seemed very pleased with the quality of the report.

“First of all,” Schienberg said in the hearing, I want to thank Ms. Graff for her work. I think you did an excellent job; it was very thorough … I think she did an excellent report.”

The commission, however, went beyond stating her positive impression of the report. When April Brinkman questioned the lack of supporting documents in the report, Schienberg was quick to demand that Brinkman apologize to the GAL.

“There’s no evidence to support anything that the GAL has said,” Brinkman stated in court. The transcript record of that statement provides no information on tone, volume, body language or any other factor except the words themselves.

“Excuse me, you’re going to apologize right now to this Court and to Ms. Graff,” said Schienberg, “or I will hold you in contempt. You apologize, now.”

Brinkman declined to apologize, was held in contempt of court and was fined $500.

Schienberg said in the hearing that her decision to relocate the children was based on the GAL report, statements made during the hearing and unspecified “documents in Volumes 4 and 5.” 

According to the court transcript, Brinkman did not receive those documents, and they were not listed in Graff’s report.

At one point, Brinkman asked Schienberg if “the guardian ad litem is supposed to attach any document she used to the report the Court considers?” Schienberg responded:

“Okay. I took the report that Ms. Graff has provided me and her comments, she is an officer of the court. I trust that when speaks to the court, she is not lying to the court. She has an excellent reputation in this court. She is a person who has done a number of guardian ad litem reports, always well done, always thoroughly researched, always coming to an unbiased, no prejudicial conclusion. I value her work.”

Perhaps reflecting the volatile nature of cases before her court, Commissioner Schienberg has attracted a Facebook page entitled “Fire Washington Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg.” The page has 30 members and includes comments from people who have had family law matters before her court.

Schienberg, reached via e-mail with a request for comment on this story, said she could not comment on an ongoing matter.


Legislator interested in case 

Washington State Rep. Ann Rivers of the 18th District and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was contacted by the mother with concerns about this case. Rivers confirmed in a phone interview that she spoke with the mother and is “concerned” by the issues raised.

“Anytime we have children put into a destabilized system, families lose out,” said Rivers, adding that she is in the “infancy stage of research” and is seeking more information from state legal staff.

Rivers said she believes that parents should place their responsibility to their children above any personal disagreement with each other. As for certain unusual language in the GAL report, Rivers said it wasn’t the kind of thing she would expect to see in a formal report.

Meanwhile, the author and The Vancouver Voice received emailed threats — from the father’s email account — of legal action if the investigation into this case continues. A June 16 email also suggests that Graff is providing legal assistance to the father and his current wife, stating:

“The guardian ad litem is also an attorney and these minors (sic) attorney, and she informed us today that if you print or allow Mr. Griffith to print a story about these minors, you and Mr. Griffith will be served with lawsuits, liable to start.”



PSA: Love is Not Abuse 1 (Teen Awareness Campaign)

In domestic law on June 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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