“I hope all Family Court judges listen.”

by Julia Fletcher

There are plenty of victims – more than in the Penn State scandal. There’s plenty of evidence – more than in the Catholic Church scandal. Plenty of studies have already been done and in place of hundreds of mainstream news reporters is deafening silence.

Except for the news reporters in one mainstream news station. The FOX 11 news team in Los Angeles, California is single-handedly investigating and reporting the national family court crisis. When children are finally protected in our family courts, it might be because FOX News LA reported the holocaust when no other mainstream news stations would.

From FOX News LA:

“A father just ax murdered his son.”

This email  appeared in my inbox last February. The email’s author had been warning me about judges in custody cases. She said they refused to listen to  parents and children – even when they had evidence they were in danger. Sometimes, she said, the judges were even taking kids away from moms – just for trying to protecting their kids.

Unbelievable?  I thought so , too. She said if I didn’t do something, more kids would die. Then 9-year-old Matthew Hernandez was murdered. Yes, with an axe. While he slept on the couch. His father is charged with the murder.

“I told you,” my email friend wrote. “Why don’t you believe me?”

By then, I did believe her. I had read the clippings she sent, particularly the ones about the murder of Baby Wyatt. That father had posted his death threats all over the internet. 

The mother warned judge, who did nothing. The father later shot Wyatt. Then himself. 

I read about case after case in Family Court: Judges warned. Mother’s desperate pleas – ignored. Children murdered. Two fathers are on trial right now for murdering their kids in these kind of cases.

So when I heard about the funeral for the ax-murdered boy – 9-year-old Matthew Hernandez — I got in my car and headed north. When I arrived, gospel music filled the large, empty Sacramento church. Matthew’s grandmother was draped over Matthew’s casket, sobbing right next to his Teddy bear. Soon hundreds of friends, relatives and community members filled the pews. It was standing room only. Matthew’s young mother, Jessica, looked shattered. She says  she warned the judge her ex was dangerous.  But he didn’t listen. The family says he didn’t even investigate. Matthew paid the price.

I was so moved by Matthew’s funeral, I wanted to find out how many other judges were warned before they handed over children to dangerous men. I talked to several moms. Many were too devastated to come on television. But not Andrea Gallegos. 

Andrea was brave enough to sit in front of our cameras and re-live the horror of having her 2-year-old son, Isaac, murdered. She pleaded with the judge, John M. Pacheco, to look at the photos of Isaac’s bruised body – proof that the father was abusing him.

The family says the Pacheco just tossed them aside. Then turned to her, according to court transcripts, and told her she was “over reacting.” Then they say,  he threatened to take her son away from her if she kept it up. It must be confusing to be a judge.  Especially in these emotional custody cases. But threatening to take away the son of  a 23-year-old mother who is begging for help?

“That’s what we do,” Judge Pacheco said, according to the court transcript.

In context, it seems he meant that courts give the child to the parent who is most willing to cooperate with the court. The next time little Isaac came home with bruises from his dad, the family told me they didn’t know what to do – or who to turn to for help.

That’s what this judge did.  Silenced a family.  And a child died. I hope Judge Pacheco listens to Andrea this time. I hope all Family Court judges listen.

Written by: Martin Burns, Investigative Producer

3 thoughts on ““I hope all Family Court judges listen.”

  1. Hi Chris,

    You are welcome. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. As you might already know, a few states do much more harm than good to families in family courts and California is one of those states. Martin was a news producer and investigative reporter who was in the process of investigating and reporting the worst of the worst corruption before he passed away. There have been and still are very few people as willing to investigate and expose the worst of the worst.

    The authorities should be our first stop, and most seem to want to help, but haven’t been able to help for the last four decades. Here’s a link to the latest post about a possible Department of Justice investigation, but they were supposed to have investigated a few times during the last few years. While we haven’t seen any signs of a serious investigation or progress from that office, maybe this will be the year.

    Most agree that investigative reporters help the most because the informed public is usually quicker to respond than state and federal offices. Peter Jamison is a talented investigative reporter who was working for a smaller publication in California and covering family court corruption in California before moving to the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. He might know of someone who can help.

    His contact information is:
    Phone: (813) 226-3337
    Email: pjamison@tampabay. com
    Twitter: @PeteJamison

    There’s a new documentary coming January 2014 called Divorce Corp. The producers of that documentary aren’t investigative reporters, but they have investigated and might either be able to help or might know of someone who can. Their contact information is: customerservice@divorcecorp. com

    If each of us does one small thing to help, it will be enough.


  2. Thank you so much for this article. My brother and I have been through hell with the CA Family Courts system for the last year. In this instance, it was not he who was the abuser, but instead it was his wife. She did not physically abuse the children to the point of leaving bruises, however, she consistently abused the children through manipulation, withholding affection and abandonment. After a year long battle over child custody, through a very contentious divorce, my brother passed away from a heart attach, following an argument with his “wife”. The family court system, in this instance, took my sister-in-laws word that my brother was abusive. They treated him as though he were guilty and even with proof that he was not the abuser, continued to treat him as such.

    If ANYONE reading this article is able to help me gain access to an investigative reporter who is open to hearing our story and possibly taking on the CA Family Court System, I would sincerely appreciate the help/direction.

  3. Thank you for this article Julia! Unfortunately they don’t listen. Judges are literally TRAINED in school to be suspicious of MOTHERS in family court. Not fathers. Where does that leave good mothers trying to protect their children from an abusive father? Then on top of that many psychologists advertise through groups that appear to be supportive of “father’s rights” groups. Which ultimately means mothers will literally be not only “shut out” but made to be the perpetrator. WHO IS GOING TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN?

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