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March 6, 2010

Mothers behaving very badly to keep their kids from their fathers; sometimes resorting to kidnapping and murder

UPDATE: Since writing my initial post this morning about the arrest of Wendy Hill (left) on charges of kidnapping her 8-year-old daughter--and keeping the girl from her Walnut Creek father for 14 years--I thought more about what this story also says about how divorce and custody cases can get really nasty, and truly terrible things can happen. Angry exes use the kids as weapons, and then maneuver to deny each other access. The victims in all this are the kids; in fact, these custody battles often put the kids in serious danger.

Unfortuantely, some of the most notable recent cases in Contra Costa County involved mothers trying to keep their children from their fathers. So, I'm sure what I'm writing here will probably concern advocates for female victims of domestic violence. They will say these four cases don't reflect all the violent and controlling behavior perpetrated by men in custody battles. I'm sure that's true.

Still, women are capable of causing lots of damage themselves. Remember Kelli Nunuz?

In 2005, Nunez left prison after serving three years for abducting her own children, Anna and Emily, and keeping them from her estranged husband Danny. Kelli Nunez had been involved in a custody battle with her estranged husband Danny since 1999. During that fight she accused her ex-husband of abusing the girls. In 2002, she snatched the girls from a Lafayette daycare center, drove them to New York, flew back to San Francisco, and gave them to strangers, members of a San Jose group who was headed, it was reported by a convicted child molester. For six months, Nunez refused to tell authorities where her daughters were.

Two cases that I have personally written about involved children who wound up dead at the hands of their mothers.  

The first was the case of intelligent, outwardly devoted San Ramon mother, 38, who in 2003 killed her 3-year-old daughter and then herself.  As I learned through talking to her friends and family and reading her writings, Maegan Mundi was upset about having to share custody with her ex-husband, and became alarmed when she learned her ex-husband might block her effort to move out of state and take her daughter, Galadriel, with her.

Last summer, Judith Williams of Walnut Creek drove her 16-year-old son Adam, a Los Lomas High junior, to near the top of Mt. Diablo at dusk on a July Friday.  There, at a picnic area with its view of clear skies, the professional, seemingly happy mother, armed with a .357-caliber revolver, opened fire on her own son. She shot him first on the chest. After he fell to his knees, she put the gun to his head and fired again. Then she turned the gun on herself. Judith Williams' ex-husband described her as "angry" and suggested she was upset that he had moved back to Northern California and might want to spend more time with Adam.

Meanwhile, in the post I originally wrote this morning, I pointed to today's Contra Costa Times which has more details in a follow-up story on the case of Jessica Click-Hill, who was found by authorities this week. 

One point the story makes is that "parental and family abductions account for nearly 97 percent of child abduction reports in the state. In Contra Costa County, all 29 abductions reported in 2008 involved family, and just one of the 64 reported in Alameda County that year was committed by a nonrelative."

What is unusual in this case is the amount of time that passed --15 years--between the time of Click-Hill's disappearance and her recovery. The Times says: "According to Justice Department data culled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only 6 percent of children abducted by their parents are found more than six months past their reported disappearances." A Walnut Creek attorney who has specialized in family law for 36 years tells the Times that these cases usually last two or three months.

The mother, Wendy Hill, was found in Monrovia, east of Pasadena Tuesday, following a tip to a missing child center. That tip was forwarded to Walnut Creek police who, with the FBI, learned that Hill was living in Southern California under the alias Gail Jackson. 

Police arrested Hill, and brought her to Contra Costa County where she was booked in County Jail in Martinez on $350,000 bail.  Authorities found Jessica living in another state apart from her mother. In all those years, she had never had contact with her father, Dean Click, with whom she had been living with in 1995 when she was kidnapped.

Click told the Times that he divorced Wendy Hill in the early 1990s, and that he was granted primary custody of his daughter. His ex-wife and daughter disappeared when Jessica went for a visitation with her mother her Redlands.  Click talks about the "void" in his life," all the years with his daughters and milestones he missed out on: birthday parties, school events.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read that the mother had custody and had blocked visitation by charging abuse. This was unproven and the father was granted visitation. There was one visit and just before the second the mother vanished with the girl. We don't know the circumstances here. If I were in the same situation and I believed the father was abusing my daughter, I may have done the same thing. What I do know, is that this woman is not a criminal threat and we are spending public resources on this case.

Anonymous said...

From LA TIMES - he didn't have custody and the girl probably barely knew him:

"The father said he and his ex-wife were in a custody dispute when Hill cleaned out her Redlands apartment in the fall of 1995 and left with the girl. Click said he lived in Walnut Creek in Northern California at the time and for years had not been able to visit his daughter without a mediator present. He said that at the time he had been accused of molesting his daughter, a charge he denied.

He said he ultimately was exonerated and that his rights were restored for full, unsupervised visits. On his first visit, he said, he celebrated by bringing his parents and taking Jessica out to lunch. On his second visit, he said, he arrived at the apartment complex and found that his ex-wife and daughter had left."

Anonymous said...

Sex and physical abuse accusations are so common in custody situations. I've known of two mothers who accused their ex-husbands of various forms of abuse. Both resulted in CPS investigations, and all accusations were deemed 'unfounded,' meaning that there is no evidence to support it. In one case, CPS found that the mother had COACHED the daughter to accuse the father of sex abuse, and this mother did it with younger daughter, too (different dad).

Who cares if he had primary custody? It's pretty flippin obvious that the mother shouldn't have had it.

Having kids go through this is emotional abuse. Courts have to stop allowing parents to make false accusations and keep custody. I don't care which parent has custody. If there is evidence that the custodial parent is not facilitating the relationship with the non-custodial parent, making false accusations, or the like, custody should be changed immediately.

The emotional abuse that these children are suffering at the hands of these custodial parents is as bad as any physical abuse.

Think about what this mother must have told the girl about her father over these many years.

This woman IS a criminal. This kidnapping should be treated the same as any other, and she should be incarcerated with all of the other criminals.

Send a few of these scum bags to jail, and watch it play out in the family courts.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Thanks everyone for responding to this post. I have come across statistics--and I should dig them up--on the unfortunate tendency of some women in child custody cases to allege that their estranged spouses are guilty of physical/sexual abuse of the kids. In one of the cases I wrote about the mother got it fixed in her head that her ex-husband was an internet porn addict--and would therefore be a bad influence and even molest her daughter. But this woman's writings also reveal a high level of narcism and obsessive/paranoid thinking, and she ultimately did not want to raise a daughter who shared her ex-husband's DNA. What's even more disturbing is that she had a lawyer--well known in the mother's rights field--who was supporting her in her attempts to limit the girl's contact with her father.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 2:11, we should let this go unpunished, sending a message to all simialr thinking parents that this is okay. Then, we can do the same with murderers and molesters.
That is ridiculous.