“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

Skeptical of Mother’s Worries, Believing Father’s Claims


We have sent information before about the horrible tragedy of the murder of Prince Rams— the toddler who died while in his father’s unsupervised custody.  Prince’s mother, Hera McLeod, had begged the courts to continue supervision of the visits.  Instead the court lifted that supervision and Prince died.  We write to let our followers know that Joaquin Rams has now been charged with premeditated murder of his own toddler. Rams had taken out three life insurance policies on Prince, totaling approximately $500,000. Our hearts go out to Hera, all those who fear a similar outcome in their own cases, and, of course, to those like Amy Castillo, who have already gone through the same horror.

photo: http://www.cappuccinoqueen.com/

“This was the last time he fell asleep on my lap.” Hera McLeod

Click here for the Washington Post’s most recent editorial following the father’s arrest.  We applaud the Post for keeping on this story and seeking to hold the courts accountable.  This was a murder that the mother predicted and the court made possible.

 The family court judge made a common mistake: Demanding proof of a crime before restricting a father’s access.  Yet, custody and visitation determinations do not require absolute proof of past violence.  These decisions are supposed to further a child’s “best interests.” This is different from criminal proceedings where the accused will lose his liberty if found “guilty.” Determining a child’s best interests means, as any responsible parent knows, that one has  to assess risk, not proof.  If the risks are there, i.e.  if there’s reasonable concern, that should be more than enough to ensure that a child is protected during visits.

No Way to Live: Women’s experiences of negotiating the family law system in the context of domestic violence

Even though Australia is on the other side of the world, the following report could easily serve to explain many dilemmas also found in family court system in America.  

If it weren’t for a few differences, one could run a word search through this report to look for “Australia” and replace it with “America” to have in one’s hands an excellent report of the experiences of women and children in domestic abuse cases in the family courts of America.