Friday, December 11, 2015

Judge Lee A. Schreiber: Dad "suspected" in murder of estranged wife retains custody of 8- and 10-year-old daughters (Lee County, Florida)

More insanity from the fathers rights-dominated state of Florida. The state that typically leads the US in father custody-related murders.

There is no "speculation" here. The research and the evidence is very clear: these children are at a VERY HIGH RISK of abuse and murder. Check out Josh Powell, the guy who was never arrested for the murder of his wife--who went on to murder his sons.

Judge: Sievers girls to stay with father, DCF petition denied

BEN BRASCH, BBRASCH@NEWS-PRESS.COM 8:34 p.m. EST December 7, 2015

Despite a state agency's attempt to take his children away after documents implicated him in his wife's killing, a judge ruled Mark Sievers' two daughters will remain in his custody.

Circuit Judge Lee A. Schreiber denied Monday a Department of Children and Families sheltering petition to remove Sievers' daughters, ages 8 and 11.

Sievers has not been charged with a crime, but documents released by the state attorney's office Tuesday linked him with two men arrested in the murder of Dr. Teresa Sievers — Curtis Wayne Wright Jr., 47, and Jimmy Rodgers, 25. According to court documents, witness testimony alleges Sievers hired his longtime friend, Wright, to kill his wife. Wright then planned to pay Rodgers $10,000 to help him. Rodgers is in a Illinois prison on an unrelated gun charge.

Schreiber underscored that when she denied the request: "The possibility that the father would abscond, that he would place the children in harm's way, (that) he would intentionally harm the children as he is alleged to have harmed their mother, is just that – it's a possibility. The grounds to remove children from parents is more probable than not, probably this happened. I can't speculate about what's going to happen in the future. There is a reason why it's a probable cause standard and not 'I think this happened, we think this might happen, we're suspicious this might happen, we have concerns that this may happen, there's a possibility this may happen' – that's not the standard for removing children, so I deny the shelter petition." Mark Sievers was present at the Lee County Courthouse for a shelter hearing for his two children on Monday. Sievers will keep custody of his children after a judge denied a DCF request for a sheltering petition.

Teresa Sievers, 46, was found dead in her Bonita Springs home June 29. An autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma to the head and investigative files say a bloodied hammer was found beside her body.

The DCF scheduled an emergency shelter hearing for Friday after someone called a child protection investigator. Schreiber continued the hearing to Monday.

Sievers remained emotionless throughout Monday's hearing, which the girls did not attend.

Sievers refused to answer questions by the media after the hearing. His attorney, Lee Hollander, attended but left before the proceedings ended. Mark Sievers exiting the Lee County courtroom Monday where a judge denied a DCF petition to take his daughters away.

Despite court documents implicating him in the killing of his wife, Sievers will retain custody of his daughters, ages 8 and 11.

Natalie Harrell, DCF spokeswoman, said child safety is the agency's top priority.

"If we receive concerning information that we believe could signal impending danger for children involved, as we did in this case, we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the children," she wrote in an email. "Moving forward, we will keep our investigation open; however, we have limited ability to work with the family unless the father is arrested."

Harrell said she couldn't comment further, citing HIPPA laws.

Theresa Fracek, a DCF program administrator with years of experience investigating child maltreatment, testified that the agency's "specific concern is the result of the impending danger."

Fracek said the agency didn't know Sievers was more than a person of interest — common to homicide cases in which one spouse is still alive and uncooperative with authorities — until Wednesday.

"We became aware from information media released," she said.

Schreiber asked Fracek why DCF didn't remove the girls from their father's custody, which it doesn't need the court's permission to do.

"It just seems like this was not the normal protocol," Schreiber said. Fracek said: "Our concern was the reaction by the father … We were trying to coordinate with the father."

Big question: Will Mark Sievers be arrested?

Fracek said another arrest is "very likely" and described the situation as having "extenuating circumstances beyond the norm."

Under cross examination by Pamela Montgomery, who represented Sievers at the hearing, Fracek said the agency didn't contact him for fear of what he could do to the children.

"This is based purely on speculation," Montgomery said in closing. "The children are safe."

Schreiber ended the hearing with a salient reminder: "Obviously, if the facts and circumstances change, as they well may from day to day, the department clearly has authority over the statute to make a physical removal of the children."