When Child Custody Becomes Deadly

“His children were his life,” Prather’s sister Jerdonna Sawyer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wasn’t crazy at all. He just chose a terrible way to deal with his pressure and his stress.”

We are all saddened by this tragedy in Georgia, in the town of Douglasville, in which a father just could not take it any longer. Family members are grieving, and we may never learn the whole story.

Loss and stress do terrible things to the minds of people who could otherwise manage fine, but the escalated conflict surrounding divorce and child custody is enough to put many over the edge.

This father is one of a large handful in Georgia to end his own life, and one of several around the country who have murdered family members during the taking of their own lives.

So we advocate for reducing conflict and ensuring protections, as much as can possibly happen. Based on our data the courts and certain court professionals are exacerbating conflict rather than helping parents receive proper counseling and guidance.

If you recall the murder of Donna Kristofak in Cobb County not too long ago, she also had a restraining order and the court knew she was in danger. She tried to protect herself. These cases are different but there is still much we can learn by studying what happened in both.

When one parent loses control and believes they can no longer function or have any quality of life, something can switch in their brain and cause the urge to do something extreme and rash like finding a gun or a knife to use. It is not the choice of the weapon that matters, but the opportunity and the circumstances that feed this rage and desperation.

We can and must do better.

Our research has identified cases that are ripe for more loss and tragedy, and much of it could have been lessened if not avoided.

Please join the conversation on Pro Advocate Radio and follow our posts on our blog and on other social media. Let us know what you can contribute – how you can help?

In the meantime, watch for parents who are struggling around the loss of their children, their jobs, homes and health. Look for ways to ease their stress and to intervene if the situation makes no sense.

Court House

Court Watch: Do Georgia Predators Have It Easy?

Is being a sexual predator in Georgia just entertainment, or are we ready to call it a crime to sexually assault someone or to secretly videotape children and adults during private moments?

Three fathers in Georgia have so far avoided conviction and real consequences for alleged sexual misconduct, as has former magistrate judge and Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson in the Augusta Judicial District.

Before we get into the specifics of these cases, we want to make sure you are aware of this video and the related document. The Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book exists to help guide professionals in family law and child custody cases involving violence and various forms of abuse.

In the Atlanta area we are asking the question, “Should this man, William Randolph Cushen, be considered as safe for any child?” Would you leave him unsupervised with your own child or anyone else’s child?
CBS46 News

This post covers the issue of protection being avoided intentionally by certain professionals, and avoided consistently across Georgia counties in family law, child custody, family violence and child abuse cases. It touches on our analysis and reporting from the Atlanta area counties, including Cobb and Fulton counties, to the Augusta circuit including Richmond and Columbia counties. The more you learn about what it takes to prosecute offenders and to protect victims, the more you realize we clearly need more help in Georgia on abuse cases. We hear and read a lot about DFCS being blamed for situations involving harm to children due to a shortfall on caseworkers, negligence or lack of oversight, but what about cases where DFCS and law enforcement are kept out, and family court professionals are to blame?

Comparisons: Some crimes are committed and recorded – literally – which show that assault is a crime. (See Turnage and Cushen, as examples.) Others are clear as well in that ethical, credible professionals have substantiated claims of abuse, only to be blocked from testifying or ignored by the courts.

Turnage: This past year we learned this older GOP official, also a predator, was foolish enough to “play” around in front of Skype getting himself caught in the act of attempted rape.  Billy Joe Turnage, chairman of the Union County Republican Party in northern Georgia, was arrested after police responded to an ongoing rape that had been seen on Skype. (Photo removed March 2015)

Georgia just can’t help it, it seems, when it comes to sexual predators and wanting to be seen in the news.   This official and GAL Doug Nelson were caught in the act, but only one was arrested.   The one responsible for helping to commit fraud during litigation and causing damages to innocent parents – and to their children – has not been arrested, and the family court judge close to this situation said “sexual harassment is not a crime in Georgia.”  Judge Roper, what was done in Augusta is not mere harassment; it was assault and it was done in the context of coercing victims using their children as leverage.

Other judges in that area knew the Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson was a predator, sexually assaulting mothers, throwing cases based on whether they complied or not, but they did nothing to intervene. Nothing has been done yet to correct the situation. This damaged both good mothers and good fathers. The toll on the children is still rising, but Georgia officials have done nothing so far. Some of these family court cases involve DFCS investigations, but we can show that the injury to children and parents is not related to any alleged DFCS failures. It is the family court professionals who are blocking protections.

How is it that sexual predators just have an easier time with help in avoiding prosecution? Either way this news coverage of sexual misconduct and attempted assault or actual assault is critical.  

What is hard to believe is that the Cobb County, Georgia, man – William Randolph Cushen – who secretly videotaped adults and children using the bathroom in two states is still able to avoid consequences in Cobb County Family Court while his victims await justice in the criminal court. He was able to plead out in Florida on similar charges after avoiding arrest in Georgia to be extradited to Florida, but family court professionals like Guardian ad Litem Larry Yarbrough do not appear interested in using the evidence on this case to protect the children. Certain court professionals have held the mother hostage in the legal process while waiting to see if the father Randy Cushen was indicted. They stalled decisions and protections in this case, even though there is no question that he committed these crimes, including secretly filming other adults and children.

Update: now that Randy Cushen has been indicted, we will get to see if the Child Custody expert, GAL (guardian ad litem) Larry Yarbrough and the Superior Court judge give this man free reign to continue abusing, or if they protect the children and hold him accountable. In addition to the damages caused to the victims of his crimes, and the risk to his own children, the father’s attorney and other court professionals appear to want the mother to lose her business and to be unable to provide for their children. There is still much here to investigate. One question parents and counsel might consider is whether or not to allow a criminal defense attorney who is positioned to defend alleged perpetrators (as opposed to protecting children) to be assigned as guardian, especially in cases where child abuse or violence may exist.

Case history:

MARIETTA, Ga. – November, 2013. A Cobb County man is accused of secretly photographing and recording both children and adults at a pool and in restrooms.   Investigators say William Randolph Cushen, III of Kennesaw set up hidden cameras at both a neighborhood pool and his own home. According to an arrest warrant, Cushen secretly photographed women at the pool at the Overlook at Marietta Country Club, and in a bathroom at his home on Grey Point Court.  The warrant says Cushen secretly videotaped women, men and children in the bathroom. Cobb County police would not comment about the case, citing its nature and an ongoing investigation. …Talk about being caught in the act!  

We want to bring your attention quickly to a major problem for victims and for our State leadership:  

Victims often do not get the support or protection they need, or the crime isn’t called a crime apparently until the victim is nearly dead, or deceased. This is not just because victims are afraid to speak up, and it’s not just that the evidence does not exist or hold up. This may be over-simplifying the answer, but it seems that the core issue is that it is more profitable to avoid protecting victims and to let true offenders off the hook. This is what we refer to as putting profit over protection.

Maybe the assault in front of Skype referred to here will make a difference even though police say the victim was “not physically injured,” or will this be forgotten? Thanks to this assault being seen, Billy Joe Turnage was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery and criminal attempt to commit rape.

But what about Randy Cushen’s victims? Child abuse can be prevented_My Advocate Center

When is it their turn to have justice?

Perpetrators of sexual assault, even those careless enough to leave evidence on text (Doug Nelson, GAL), on their computers (Cushen), or on Skype (Billy Joe Turnage), and even those exposed in the news media, often do not get prosecuted, and in some cases they do not face the consequences that early reporting suggests they will receive.

Two other cases we follow, one in Fulton County and another one in Cobb County, both involved investigations that led to substantiated abuse reports (one by DFCS), but the alleged perpetrators are still given either primary custody or visitation rights without any regard for the protection needed by the children.

It does seem that Georgia has a problem with tolerating sexual assault and abuse, even when the crimes and evidence are clearly identified and the victims are begging for justice (Cobb County let father John Kristofak out of jail knowing he was mentally unstable and committed to murdering his former wife).  

These are not isolated incidents and much of the injury is predictable, and avoidable.

If national news media is what is needed to make a difference, then we hope this SKYPE spotlight will serve us well!

In the meantime, please keep asking this question: is it all of Georgia leadership and all courts or agencies, or is it mostly family court professionals who put profit over protection?

Either way, KEEP THE PRESSURE ON to have predators and those who cover for them held accountable, while ensuring protections and treatment for victims.

Union County Sheriff Investigator Staff Sgt. Darren Osborn told the paper that 911 dispatchers received a report of an ongoing “assault and rape” of a 39-year-old female at Turnage’s residence last week. Osborn said that investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted two days of interviews before bringing criminal attempt to commit rape charges against Turnage.  

 

This is KEY: the GBI only needed two days to decide to bring criminal charges for the attempt to commit rape.

But in the Fulton County Superior Court case, the GBI did not follow through on twice-confirmed evidence of child pornography, and both police and forensic experts were not allowed to testify for the protection of this child. Now the alleged perpetrator is getting away with making false allegations against the abused child’s mother, and she has been run into the ground from trying through the court system to defend herself and to protect her child. 

Why should the public follow up on this particular story about the rape assault on Skype? Because other sexual assault victims in Georgia, and victims of other types of assault or exploitation, are not getting justice or any kind of protection in many cases.  If we lose interest in these stories everyone loses, especially victims of crimes. In other cases the perpetrators do not have the political pull and connections this man apparently has. So if those other offenders are never convicted and their victims do not get justice, what do you think might happen here?

In the Augusta area, mothers who were sexually assaulted by the GAL Doug Nelson during their child custody cases cannot get law enforcement to take action against this predator. This is in spite of his text messages revealing his actions and their video testimony, and in spite of the fact that there are multiple victims and clear damages.  

There is even proof that judges knew this was going on and did not intervene, ignoring the damages to both parents and to their children. Good mothers lost custody of their children when they did not comply with his demands for sex, while at least two good fathers lost their rights – and a lot of money – when the mothers on those cases allegedly complied with Nelson’s advances.  

What in the world is going on outside the gates of the peaceful and austere grounds of the Augusta National Golf Course, home to the Masters Tournament?  This can’t possible be the same place the world sees as a golfers paradise?

Back to other news: The New York Daily News and other major media outlets spent time to learn whether this is the norm in Georgia, or was this aging now-former official just that stupid on top of being willing to commit the criminal act of raping a woman?

“A Georgia Republican official is facing criminal rape charges after he broadcast on Skype an alleged sexual assault attempt, according to a bombshell report.

Billy Joe Turnage, the 76-year-old GOP chairman in Union County in northern Georgia, allegedly tried to rape a 39-year-old woman in her house — and he televised the disgusting act on the Internet, according to the North Georgia News.”

 On this AJC page covering the Georgia election updates, more is explained about how this went down – or actually went UP, as in on the air: “Oct. 22, dispatch received a 911 call at approximately 4 p.m. of what was believed to be an assault and rape,” Sgt. Osborn said. “It was being viewed via Skype. Deputies responded and I responded as well.”

Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for the state GOP, said state party officials have received no communication regarding Turnage’s status. Any effort to remove him would require action at the local level, Mahoney said. A picture of Turnage and David Perdue, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, is on the Union County GOP Facebook page. It’s not likely to be there long. (If you follow up on this story, please let us know if this offender was held accountable.)

Correction: the Union County GOP Facebook page is GONE.  So apparently that is one way to rid yourself of pesky photos of predatory pals.

 

 

For now we’ll leave you with these questions:

Do victims of assault experience real damages even if they are not physically injured or if the injuries do not include physical bruising or tearing?

Do we expect our Courts and Law Enforcement to prosecute crimes and protect victims even when news media is not applying pressure?

If this kind of abuse is being reported on by news media, and victims are still not receiving any help from the courts or from state agencies, then what hope is there for other victims?

   

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Just What Did the Doctor Order?

The fewer words we use to describe this here, the better.

The more time you spend understanding what went into this article being shared around the globe, the more you can help solve this mystery in your own backyard.

Professionals focused on improving protections: please connect on these issues.

This is quite simple:

Ask court professionals to put protections over profit, rather than the other way around as they appear on this Cobb County, Georgia case.

Another expensive report in the way of protecting children? $$$

Another expensive report in the way of protecting children? $$$

 

Child abuse is a crime, and preventing crimes from being investigated and blocking the protection of children is a crime.  It’s time to stop calling this something that it is NOT.  

What is it?  #GALmisconduct  

What do we do?  We ask that the authorities #ReviewCases flagged for professional misconduct. That is step one.

Protecting Children from Family Violence

The stories are worse than the stats, so if you don’t have a strong stomach, just turn away.

But we dare you to watch and learn, and take a stand in your cases and in your courts.

Many injuries and deaths are preventable, so stop making excuses. #ProtectChildren

Atlanta News Radio – Family Court Reform

The gavel dropped to open the 2014 Georgia legislative session, right after this brief segment aired.

All News 106.7 and Scott Kimbler reveal what is going on behind the scenes at My Advocate Center regarding Family Court Reform.

Help us serve the real needs of children who are not being protected due to foul play and hidden influence in certain family court cases.

Play

The Full Story Behind the Divorce Corp. Film

There was another documentary made before this Divorce Corp. film, but from a different perspective. It was not narrated by a big name media personality so most of us did not hear about it. My Advocate Center’s Executive Director Deb Beacham learned about this documentary after talking about the Divorce Corp film with family court leaders and advocates around the country.

That’s the lead in to the rest of the story, a story that will continue developing as we get closer to our event and the world premiere of this shocking film.

Just know it’s about more than one film, and about more than one voice.

While waiting to hear what Dr. Drew says about the family court industry, please watch this trailer and understand the issues from the perspective of children. Many of Dr. Drew’s adult patients were victims of childhood abuse.

No Way Out But One is important, and is complementary to what we are talking about on the night of our Divorce Corp. screening.

This is about child abuse that is covered up, but using the same court professionals who punish innocent fathers.

 

After you watch this trailer, please join Court Watches around the country like this one in Cobb County, Georgia.

The Hostage Child, Fiction or Non-Fiction?

An unfortunately accurate title.  So what do we do about it??

In 2013, in Georgia, there was a hearing that was a continuance of an “Emergency” hearing that had been scheduled for over a MONTH where a teen girl has been begging the Court for relief.  Not because she was yelled at…because she was being tormented & cut off from the help she needed, to the point where she became desperate and even suicidal.

It was outrageous and worth revealing to the public because most of us believe that when children are in danger that the court would respond quickly and efficiently to help save a life.  Too often that just isn’t the case.  This is one of the reasons for sharing stories from across the country, and asking our leadership to work on changes that will better protect kids in these situations.

Is it really necessary to make a child wait like this after so many outcries for relief?

@MyAdvocateCentr reports that her affidavits made jaws drop and eyes become shiny with tears.  Not one affidavit…several.  These were filed in Forsyth County to ask Judge Bagley to please pay attention, to please give her the freedom to say “Stop.”

Please stop here and watch this video.

Back to Georgia:
The father decided to retaliate against the school counselor who has worked to give the teen relief from oppression and duress – so the father tried to have him fired.  Is this community going to stand behind a courageous girl & the school counselor?

A bold attorney actually found visible evidence – the morning of the first part of this hearing – of the very comfortable relationship between the Judge and the father’s attorney.  Seasoned professionals approached & thanked her for speaking out & revealing the truth.  Of course, the Judge saw no reason to recuse…so maybe he believes he can rule properly on this evidence?

Update:  Judge Bagley did, in fact, see reason to grant this girl’s request and restored balance to her life with both parents.  He also prevented the father from sending her away to another “camp” that the father insisted she should attend since she was indicating she wanted more time with her mother.

Why send a child away, getting LESS time with her, just to keep her from having time with her mother?  Whether it is this camp he mentioned or the previous one he used, why do that at all?

The father’s attorney actually put in writing that she not only recommends the Rachel House in Texas on cases like this one, but she also said this judge would help support another judge sending children there.

Do you know what the #RachelHouse (aka #RachelFoundation) does to children?  Do you realize the purpose behind sending children out of state and isolating them?

Please join in, and do report cases here where a #Judge has worked with the #RachelHouse to tell children that abuse is OK.

#NeedsofChildren #GAFamilyCourt #DomesticViolence #StopChildAbuse

 

Please see our Facebook post about The Hostage Child book for more detail on purchasing this book, or learning the reality for many children who make outcries to the Family Courts in Georgia.