We first posted on this case back in August, when custodial dad CHRIS MILBURN murdered his 15-year-old daughter and a neighbor who was providing foster care for the girl. Now we finally hear the mother's story.
Seems the mother had never been married to this man, and he showed no interest in his daughter for years. "Out of the blue", he suddenly wants to get to know the child, so Mom did the "nice" thing and shipped the child (then 9) for a 3-week visit in Tennessee. In an era of father exaltation, mothers are told they must "encourage" a relationship with the father, even when hard cold judgement should make you wonder why somebody is suddenly interested in a "relationship" with a 9-year-old girl they had never bothered with before. But then judges and sundry court officials seldom ask these questions either. So what happens next? Daddy refuses to return her. The mother, who is disabled from a bone disease, is unable to lauch a custody fight for financial reasons. Result: Daddy sexually abuses the girl until she can stand the abuse no longer. She runs away from home. She finally discloses the abuse. Then CPS sends her to stay with a temporary foster family that lives just 3 doors away from Daddy. Two people are murdered before Daddy finally offs himself. Freaking insane.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Bereaved mom finds refuge in Roseburg
Grieving over the killing of her daughter in Tennessee, Jessica Lea Readen took refuge last year in her native Roseburg.
“It's about the only place I feel safe,” Readen said Tuesday. “I've been through hell and back.”
Her 15-year-old daughter, Stevie Noelle, was shot and killed Aug. 2, 2009, in Dyserburg, Tenn., by Chris Milburn, the girl's father. Milburn, 34, also shot the couple with whom Stevie was staying — slaying the husband and wounding the wife — before killing himself with a .40-caliber handgun.
A lawyer representing Readen filed a $13 million lawsuit recently in Dyer County Circuit Court in Tennessee against Milburn's estate. Readen also has filed a $300,000 claim against Tennessee, alleging the state Children's Services failed to protect Stevie.
The agency and the state attorney general's office have declined to comment to reporters. A Children's Services spokesman today referred questions to the attorney general's office, which said it was reviewing Readen's claim.
Readen told The News-Review that her child's death was preventable and that she hopes going to court will somehow help other children who find themselves in danger at home. “My intent wasn't to sue for money, I just want laws to be changed,” she said.
Readen was born in Roseburg and grew up in Reedsport, where Stevie was born. Readen and Milburn were never married, and he was out of Stevie's life for many years, Readen said.
“Out of the blue, he called up and said he wanted to get to know her,” Readen said. “I decided to let her get to know him.”
At the age of 9, Stevie went to Tennessee for a three-week visit. At her father's insistence, she never left, Readen said.
Readen, who said she lives on disability payments related to a bone disease, said she wanted Stevie back but didn't have money to hire a lawyer to fight for custody. “I kind of pretty much felt like a horrible mother,” she said. “It was pretty rough on the whole family because we're really close.”
Reader's lawsuit alleges that Milburn sexually abused Stevie, who ran away the week before she was killed. Authorities found her and placed her into the home of Milburn's neighbors Todd and Susan Randolph, while they investigated the abuse complaints, the Dyersburg State Gazette reported.
Readen said she was living in Florence at the time and got on a Greyhound bus when her daughter said she wanted to leave Tennessee. The shootings took place while Readen was en route.
Dyersburg police told the State Gazette that Milburn approached the Randolphs' home and opened fire, killing Todd Randolph, 46, first and then wounding Susan Randolph, 45, before entering the house and shooting Stevie. He went to a nearby field and shot himself.
A relative called Readen at a truck stop in Texas and told her Stevie was dead.
A couple saw her crying, learned what was wrong and gave her a ride to El Paso, where another relative paid for Readen to fly to Tennessee.
An Episcopalian minister told the Star Gazette that the Randolphs were devoted to each other and their church. Readen said Stevie told her over the phone the evening before the shooting, “Mom, I'm with really good people.”
Readen said that she didn't know until she arrived in Tennessee that the Randolphs lived close to Milburn and knew him.
The claim against the state says the Randolphs and Milburns lived three houses apart. Placing the girl so close was “obviously not safe,” the claim alleges.
About three months after the shootings, Readen said she and her 3-year-old son moved from Florence to Roseburg to live with her best friend.
“I was living by myself with my son and once something like this happens, you realize it can happen to anyone,” she said.