Shared custody with woman who killed children

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
Shared custody with woman who killed children

Is it reasonable for a woman who killed her own children to share parental responsibility for someone else's children after being released?

SEATTLE (Associated Press) -- Trisha Conlon's motherly instinct seems reasonable: She doesn't want her teenage boys living with a woman who shot and killed her own daughters in their sleep 20 years ago.

But that will happen on Sunday thanks to a bizarre and convoluted custody dispute with her ex-husband, retired Marine fighter pilot Lt. Col. John P. Cushing Jr.

Cushing, who lives on Vashon Island south of Seattle, is back together with his first wife, Kristine, who used a .38-caliber handgun in the deaths of their 4- and 8-year-old girls at their home in California's Orange County in 1991.

The killings stunned the well-to-do community of Laguna Niguel, where many wondered how Kristine Cushing – who seemed like a "super-mom" ferrying the girls to music and soccer and dance and the orthodontist as her husband was on military assignments overseas – could snap so tragically. She blamed the killings on a bad reaction to the antidepressant Prozac, was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and served nearly four years in a mental institution.

After a decade of psychiatric monitoring, Kristine Cushing received an unconditional release from the state of California in 2005 when authorities determined she posed no risk. But that's done little to soothe Conlon, who went to court to alter the parenting plan for the two sons she had with Cushing after learning Kristine Cushing had returned to Cushing's home.

"I just don't understand how a person could have marital relations with the person who killed their children," Conlon said. "It just doesn't make sense to me."

But the court ruled against Conlon.

Commissioner Leonid Ponomarchuk said that since the boys had been spending time with Kristine Cushing since 2008 with no problems – even if it was unknown to Conlon – there wasn't evidence of a change in situation that would warrant an alteration of the parenting plan.

"I have to look at this dispassionately," Ponomarchuk said. "Would I ever want my children around her? I would say no. But that is an emotional reaction coming from a parent."

In court declarations, Cushing has emphasized that Kristine Cushing was considered temporarily insane – and thus, "There was no crime committed – there was a horrible tragedy that resulted in the deaths of our two daughters. (Conlon) and her counsel seem to feel that anyone who suffers from temporary insanity is incapable of recovering from that condition. Kristine's doctors disagree."

"Kristine M. Cushing is doing well," he wrote. "She is busy, enjoys life and loves me and my sons."

Cushing noted that he stores his personal guns at a friend's home when he's not using them at a gun range. Kristine Cushing said in her own declaration, "I love Samuel and Stephen very much and have a good relationship with both of them."

Conlon lives in Silverton, Ore. She and Cushing were married in 1995 and divorced in 2004. Their older son, 14-year-old Stephen, lives with her during the school year, while 13-year-old Sam lives with Cushing. The boys are together during holidays and vacations, which they split between their parents.

Cushing remarried his first wife in 2005. Conlon suspected Kristine might be back in Cushing's life, but said she didn't learn it for sure until two years later, when she received a call from a Washington state Child Protective Services worker. The worker told her that CPS had just received a call from Kristine's therapist, who reported that Kristine was living with children again.

Conlon threatened then to go to court to seek a change in the boys' parenting plan, court records show. Instead, Cushing told her not to worry about it: Kristine Cushing had decided to divorce him and move out.

But the divorce was never finalized. Kristine moved back in. According to a court declaration by Cushing, that was in March 2008.

For the next three years, Conlon said, she had no idea her boys were spending time with Kristine Cushing. Cushing deliberately concealed that fact, she claimed, by instructing the boys to refer to their stepmom by a different name – "Mrs. M."

Conlon said that early this year she became suspicious again that Kristine Cushing was back in the house. She arrived at Cushing's home to drop off Stephen for spring break and saw a painting Kristine had made hanging on a wall. It was dated 2010.

She and her attorney, Todd DeVallance, hired a private investigator, who confirmed it.

Conlon went to court in mid-June and was granted full custody of the boys for 30 days, at which time she would have to make a showing in court that the parenting plan should be permanently modified. The hearing was on Monday.

DeVallance was outraged at Ponomarchuk's decision to deny.

"There's not a parent I've talked to who've said they'd let their children in a home with a woman who has executed her children," he said. "It's absurd to say, `Well, she hasn't killed anybody recently.' This isn't right."

Neither Cushing nor his attorney returned calls seeking comment.

DeVallance and Conlon are appealing the decision to the King County Superior Court judge assigned to their case. But the judge is on vacation; they can't get a hearing until Aug. 25.

In the meantime, Conlon will drop the boys off with the Cushing on Sunday, she said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/02/woman-who-killed-kids-at-_n_916044.html

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

The whole situation is bizzare. There is no way that I would re-marry the man that killed my children. As a Mother, I would do whatever I could to protect my children from someone who has a documented mental case and murders of her own children. I would get a new lawyer and fight like hell or take my children and disappear.

Minx_Kristi's picture
Joined: 01/02/09
Posts: 1261

That is absolutely insane!

I would never, EVER get back with a man who killed his own children and I would understand DBFs concerns if I did.

The mother of the boys has every right to not be happy with this.

xx

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

I think that ones feelings on this will come down to how much one knows about or has witnessed mental illness.

I'm fine with it. She paid her price, she is deemed better by professionals, what do I have to say about it?

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"Potter75" wrote:

I think that ones feelings on this will come down to how much one knows about or has witnessed mental illness.

I'm fine with it. She paid her price, she is deemed better by professionals, what do I have to say about it?

I don't think it's as black and white as just knowing about or having experience with mental illness. Rationally (and legally - since she was not convicted of a crime) I agree with this, that she paid her price and was deemed better by her doctors.

However, to be completely honest, my true emotional response is that if it were my son, I would not feel fine about it. Part of me would always worry. I don't think that I'm super over-protective - I am one of those that fully plans on letting my kids spend the night at their friend's house, let my kids stay with babysitters, et cetera. But the idea of letting my son spend the night with a woman that killed her two children chills me, even knowing that the professionals deem her better.

I also know enough about mental illness to know that for many people, it is a life long struggle that can be "maintained" with medication and therapy, but often cannot be completely "cured."

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

I understand feeling upset by it, or being the mother and being worried....but legally it is the right thing to do. Unless we start sterilizing people and mandating that anyone who committed a crime involving children (insane or not) not reproduce, live in homes with or near children etc etc this sort of thing is a possibility.

Divorce sure can make things messy, eh? Remind me not to marry the husband of an insane murderer and have children with him if the wife has a shot at release, lest I ever get tempted, will you? Smile

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

The thing is, her therapist is the one that reported that the woman had moved back in with her ex and his children. I just don't see how this got through court.

when she received a call from a Washington state Child Protective Services worker. The worker told her that CPS had just received a call from Kristine's therapist, who reported that Kristine was living with children again.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"wlillie" wrote:

The thing is, her therapist is the one that reported that the woman had moved back in with her ex and his children. I just don't see how this got through court.

when she received a call from a Washington state Child Protective Services worker. The worker told her that CPS had just received a call from Kristine's therapist, who reported that Kristine was living with children again.

Maybe legally she had to report it?

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

I don't really understand that part ~ because as a mandated reporter I would think that she would only have to report her patient if living with children was something against the terms of her release. Since she isn't on parole as she wasn't convicted, it confuses me that she would have terms. That makes me wonder why the therapist reported it, you know? Confused.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Maybe legally she had to report it?

But she lived with the kids for two years before it was reported from how I'm reading it. I don't think a mandated reporter would wait that long and I definitely don't think that I'd be able to see a therapist and not need to talk about the people I'm living with. Can you imagine not bringing up the kids you live with in therapy?

It just makes me wonder if she was fine for the initial few years and then said something that triggered the therapist to call. I guess it's probably not that or the judge would have ruled for the kids and not their dad.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3187

I can look at at objectively and say, "oh, she's fine now." But if it were my kids? I'd run away with them before I'd have them live with someone who killed her own children.

Starryblue702's picture
Joined: 04/06/11
Posts: 5454

"Minx_Kristi" wrote:

That is absolutely insane!

I would never, EVER get back with a man who killed his own children and I would understand DBFs concerns if I did.

The mother of the boys has every right to not be happy with this.

xx

The man didn't kill anyone, his first wife did. It says that 20 years prior they were married, he was overseas, and she killed their young children. While she was in prison, he re-married another woman and had two sons, now teens. Aparently he left her and is back with the first murdering wife, but wants custody of his boys from the second marriage, which would entail them being under the same roof as the murdering first wife.

I think it's sick, and how any right minded judge could allow children to be under the care of someone who was charged and found guily (by whatever reason, insanity or not) of murder is beyond me. What if she snapped again? She's supposed to risk her children's lives because some judge doesn't want to "step on anyone's toes?" Why are we putting the feelings of a convicted felon who murdered her own children above those of a concerned mother??!! I swear some people don't deserve to "interpret the law..."