Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why was abuser dad allowed "supervised" visitation? (Palm Bay, Florida)

Do we need any more evidence that the State of Florida's system for protecting children is utterly and completely broken down?

Despite defense attorney lies, it is clear that the abuse "allegations" against dad PAUL MARTIKAINEN were substantiated, which is no big surprise given Dad's extensive criminal record, including drugs. Yet "supervised" visitation (here defined as Daddy's pal, who disappears to go to the bathroom, leaving the father and son unattended) continued despite that. Nobody made any effort to stop the visits, because after all, Thanksgiving was coming up and we had more important things to worry about, like who's making the cranberry sauce this year. And whether dinner's at Cousin Marv's or at Aunt Myrtle's. So we're told there was "no time." No time to protect a child. But of course.

Needless to say, the effort is now on to whitewash the affair and defend Judge Charlie Roberts, who is widely regarded by those in the know as a fathers rights judge who has little to no interest in protecting children. (Why the mother's attorney is leading this defense is rather interesting. Who is his client anyway?) We hear it claimed that the Judge has no "crystal ball," which is a rather stupid straw man. Of course, he has no crystal ball. You have to make decisions based on past behavior. Given Dad's history, and that there were serious "allegations" that Dad had hit the little boy on the face and back leaving bruises (allegations that are now substantiated), his visitation should have been terminated. But no. Judge Roberts appointed Daddy's buddy to keep an eye on things, a guy who has already shown himself as totally biased in favor of Dad. So at best, he does a half-assed job, and you see the utterly predictable results. Basically the whole set-up was designed for failure, despite protests to the contrary.

And I'm not interested in whether the Salvation Army could have done a better job of supervising. There is NO REASON for a helpless 3-year-old child to be continually traumatized by forced contact with someone who beats him. Judge Roberts needs to get on the ball or get off the bench.

It's this kind of deliberate incompetence that's keeping Florida in the lead for child abuse fatalities.

Despite abuse complaints, accused kidnapper allowed to see son

Lawyer says claims part of custody fight


State child welfare records reveal a history of abuse complaints against a father charged with kidnapping his 3-year-old son, yet he still was allowed court-supervised visitation that ultimately led to the boy's abduction from a Cocoa park.

Department of Children and Families officials said they investigated complaints against 35-year-old Paul Martikainen of Palm Bay over the past year, and the latest confirmed he had abused his son, Luke Finch. That investigation was closed Nov. 25, three days before Martikainen fled with Luke on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

But legal experts say the DCF finding wouldn't immediately trigger termination of visitation rights.

"I think the reason nobody did anything is there was no time," said Mitchell Karpf, a Miami attorney and family law expert not connected to Martikainen's case.

Florida family law dictates that judges allow both parents to be in their child's life unless there's clear evidence it is detrimental to the child, he said, adding: "The appropriate thing to do would be to get the report, go to the court and say, 'In light of this, it's detrimental.' "

Martikainen, charged with international parental kidnapping, waived his first federal court appearance during a 10-minute hearing in Fort Myers on Wednesday, pending a request his case be transferred to the Orlando district.

Martin DerOvanesian, the public defender assigned to Martikainen, said the alleged kidnapper wanted the public to know he was motivated to protect his son.

He compared the case to other parental abductions.

"People need to understand this is a typical child custody battle between two former spouses," DerOvanesian said. "My understanding is that the ex-wife (Christa Finch) has made allegations about abuse to children and family services and these have been investigated and unfounded. It's just back and forth all the time. These are fairly typical custody situations."

If convicted, Martikainen faces up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and supervised release for a year.

"You take the sailboat from eBay out of it, and the international waters out of it, and you see this all the time," DerOvanesian said.

Not angry

Meanwhile, Christa Finch, Luke's mother, told reporters Wednesday she wasn't angry with Martikainen or the court monitor he evaded Saturday during a supervised visit with Luke at Riverfront Park.

Cocoa police said they don't believe the monitor, Bob Rumble of Titusville, was involved in Martikainen's plan to whisk away Luke, and no charges are being considered.

"I am just too thankful," Finch said, looking down at Luke as he played in the chair beside her. She said Luke slept next to her all night following their reunion Tuesday evening. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued Luke from his father's 32-foot sailboat early Tuesday about 140 miles southwest of Sanibel Island.

As Luke was reunited with his mother, Martikainen was taken into custody and returned to shore on another Coast Guard vessel. That vessel also was towing the sailboat, which sunk along the way.

Coast Guard officials said they won't recover the boat.

"There may have been things onboard that are crucial -- maps or charts -- but we'll never know. We believe the federal charges are strong and we're confident in our case," said Cocoa police spokeswoman Barbara Matthews.

Abuse alleged

Cocoa police Lt. John Casey said the department is investigating the DCF's abuse findings from an October incident and may file criminal charges.

The allegations are that during an unsupervised visit Martikainen hit Luke on his back and face, leaving bruises, according to a Brevard County Sheriff's report. The information was passed on to Cocoa police for further investigation.

Cocoa police previously investigated at least two other cases forwarded to them by DCF, but there was insufficient evidence to forward the cases on to the state attorney's office, Casey said.

Court records indicate that soon after DCF opened its latest investigation in October, Finch's attorney, Alan Landman, petitioned family court Circuit Judge Charlie Roberts to terminate Martikainen's visitation pending a psychological evaluation.

In an interview with FLORIDA TODAY, Landman said Roberts took "a middle ground."

The judge appointed Rumble to supervise the visits. Landman identified Rumble as a court clerk who became acquainted with Martikainen over the past year and even acted as a character witness for him during one of his custody hearings.

However, Landman said he does not blame the judge for Luke's abduction. Instead, he cites the flawed system that allows for third-party court-appointed supervisors.

In fact, several judges and attorneys interviewed decried a funding lapse that last year eliminated a Salvation Army program that provided a place for child exchanges and supervised visits -- under the watch of armed deputies and trained court monitors.

"Obviously there's limited ability for (third-party supervisors) to do anything if someone wants to . . . take off with the child," Landman said, referring to Martikainen. "When you have someone with this gentleman's history -- with different names and passports and drug convictions -- it's not really appropriate, in my opinion, to have some third-party thrown into that world. You're put in a position of failure.

"But I understand Judge Roberts," Landman continued. "He doesn't have a crystal ball. He can't foresee someone's going to kidnap a child."

The Ft. Myers News-Press contributed to this report. Contact Summers at 242-3642 or

Additional Facts
December 2004: Paul Martikainen and Christa Finch marry.

July 2005: Finch files for divorce.

September 2005: Divorce finalized. Martikainen gives up parental rights to unborn child.

January 2006: Luke Finch is born.

April 2008: Martikainen files for joint custody, claiming he bonded with Luke when he and Finch briefly reconciled. Unsupervised visitations begin.

October 2009: Judge appoints a court monitor to supervise visits amid allegations that Martikainen abused Luke.

November 28, 2009: Martikainen abducts Luke during a supervised visit at Riverfront Park in Cocoa.

December 1, 2009: Coast Guard rescues Luke on his father's sailboat 140 miles southwest of Fort Myers Beach. Martikainen is charged with kidnapping.