India: Lawyers Collective Urges Centre To Not Sign Hague Convention On Civil Aspects Of International Child Abduction


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Lawyers Collective and Advocate Suranya Aiyar have urged the Centre to not sign the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention, signed by 96 countries, provides for a mechanism to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another.

The NGO and Ms. Aiyar have pointed out several reasons for opposing the Convention in their submissions made to the Committee on the Convention as well. Calling the Convention a “draconian and insensitive law”, they have, thereafter, appealed for a negotiation of terms with foreign Governments that would “preserve and foster a child’s relationship with both its parents”.

Fleeing parent is not an “abductor”

The submissions protest against the terminology used in the Convention, when labeling the removal of children from a country by their own parents as “abduction”.

“We should not stigmatize parents coming to India with their own children as “abductors”. Under the Indian law, it has been well established that parents are the natural guardians of their children, so there is no question of treating them as “abductors” under Indian law,” they assert.

The Convention Comes Down Heavily on Abandoned and Abused Mothers

They allege that the Convention turns a blind eye to the plight of the mothers who flee to India after facing abandonment or domestic violence. The submissions, therefore, urge the Committee to be “sensitive” to their cause and cite the stand taken by Japan by making exceptions in case of woman facing domestic violence in the country from which they have fled.

They further contend that the Convention, if implemented, will push the women back to an environment of abuse that she escaped, in order to stay close to her child.

The Convention Ignores the Best Interests of the Child

They assert that the Convention “fails to take into account the needs and best interests of the child” by hinging the fate of the child on the place where he or she was ‘habitually resident’ before being brought to India.

They explain, “Many anomalous situations arise if we adopt this notion of ‘habitual residence’ as being decisive in inter-parental custody disputes. Suppose a woman is forced to stay in a foreign country under court injunctions while her divorce case is on-going, and she gives birth to a child in that period, is it fair of the law to consider that child as habitually resident there? Suppose the custodial parent becomes incapacitated for some reason from taking care of the child, is the other parent going to be denied custody merely owing to the child having been habitually resident elsewhere?”

Bias against awarding custody to Indian parents

The submissions highlight the “deep prejudice” showcased against Indian parents by first world countries. They rely on a recent study conducted by Ms. Aiyar, which reveals that the United States is routinely removing Indian children from both Indian parents on spurious allegations of abuse.

“Indian-resident parents less likely to be granted custodial rights by courts of countries such as the USA and Norway, which are largely ignorant of India, except as a third-world country that any child would be lucky to escape… The Committee and the Indian Government must bear these dynamics in mind in order to properly understand how the Hague Convention will be used, not just in interparental disputes but also against both parents by foreign child protection agencies,” they, therefore, submit.

The Convention Allows Custodial Claims Without Any Judicial Order

They emphasise on the fact that the foreign party does not have to produce a Court order to establish its right to custody and submit, “If such laws were to be passed in India, it would amount to complete abdication of responsibility towards Indian children by the Indian Government. Let alone sending children to a foreign parent without proper custodial, this would not even protect them from being trafficked by fraudsters and criminals.”

Existing laws for implementation of foreign custody judgments

The submissions assert that the by signing the Convention, the country will be compelled to recognize a foreign judgment regardless of the justness of the decision on custody under Indian law or whether it was delivered ex-parte. They further submit that the Convention seeks to circumvent the Indian legal system, by shutting off any recourse in the home country for the child and parent leaving the foreign “habitual residence” country.

“This is not an arrangement that India should agree to keeping in mind the practical realities of prejudice in foreign courts and authorities over custody and the plight of mothers returning to India with their children. The draft Bill that seeks to implement the Hague Convention in India circumvents our courts and their parens patria jurisdiction over children. It also sweeps away our entire jurisprudence on child custody in one blow.” they submit.

Policing and Invasion of Privacy of the Child

The submissions make reference to Article 7 of the Convention, which permits Central Authorities constituted under the Convention in member States to liaise with each other to find and deport children. Without the any supervision of a judicial authority or intervening rights of the parents of the children, these authorities are allowed to “discover the whereabouts of a child”; “take provisional measures”, “exchange information relating to the social background of the child” and so on.

It is, therefore, submitted, “This is a gross invasion of the privacy of the child; and that too by a no-judicial body, without any countervailing rights given to the child’s de facto custodial parent in order to balance the powers of the Central Authority.”

See Petition Here

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Singapore: More expat spouses left in lurch in divorce cases


couples_3While dealing with divorce, some expatriate spouses find themselves stripped of their Dependant’s Pass (DP) and are forced to leave the country or fight a lengthy legal battle. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

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Dependent on working spouses, typically male, for their legal stay in S’pore, they can be forced to leave kids behind

Ending a marriage is never easy, especially in a foreign country, and this is the case for a growing group of expatriate spouses here.

While dealing with divorce, some find themselves stripped of their Dependant’s Pass (DP) and are forced to leave the country or fight a lengthy legal battle. They can even be forced to leave behind young children.

Under the law, a parent cannot leave Singapore with his or her children without the consent of the other parent, even if they are legally divorced. Those who do so can be hauled back to Singapore on charges of child abduction.

Once the DP is cancelled, he or she is given a social visit pass or tourist visa to stay in Singapore, which could be 30 to 90 days. He or she is not allowed to work during this period.

This method of “getting rid” of expat spouses is becoming more common, according to lawyers.

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A trailing wife, whose marriage has broken down and whose husband behaves unconscionably, will find herself in a desperate position. Not only is her continued stay here dependent on the whims of her husband supporting her DP application, but he could also cut her off financially and deprive her of access to their home and children. As a foreigner, she is also not entitled to any legal aid.

MS POONAM MIRCHANDANI, partner at Mirchandani & Partners, which specialises in international family law.

When an expat moves here, his or her company sponsors the Employment Pass (EP). The employer of the expat, who is typically male, then sponsors his wife and children as dependants on his pass, which he can ask to cancel any time.

Ms Catherine Rose Yates, a British permanent resident who set up a support group for expats going through a divorce, said she has come across 11 such cases.

“The spouse with the EP is legally entitled to request to cancel the DPs of his family members and, in these cases, by cancelling only the mother’s DP, he is trying to separate her from the child,” she said.

“He is hoping that she would have to leave the country. That puts him in a better position in a custody battle for the children.”

Ms Christina Karl, managing director of Berry Appleman & Leiden Asia Pacific, an immigration consultancy firm, said: “Cancellation is immediate once the employer makes the request. It is not the individual who cancels the DP, but his or her employer as it is the sponsor.”

Ms Yates said the support group has grown from five to six members in December 2014 to more than 250 now.

“Almost every day, there is a new post on the group’s Facebook page asking for advice about these visa situations. It works both ways, but it tends to be the women who are more vulnerable,” she added.

Kate (not her real name), a 26-year-old from Kazakhstan, was told via letters from her husband’s lawyers earlier this month that her DP had been cancelled and she could stay in Singapore only on a social visit pass until Oct 5. She was also told she had been taken off the tenancy agreement of their rented condominiumunit and had to leave within the same time period.

Her French husband, a tennis coach who holds an EP, had filed for divorce just a day before, after moving out of their place in July.

She is still staying there with their son, who is nearly two years old. She lost her monthly pay of $1,800 as a spa receptionist last month when her contract ended and is not able to work now.

“If I take my baby home with me, I am denying him access to his father, but why is it also not seen the other way round?” she asked. She has since managed to engage pro bono lawyers to try to get her DP back until the divorce is finalised.

Lawyers said that, in these cases, the working spouse has not done anything illegal. Ms Aishah Winter, associate director at Consilium Law Corp, said: “While probably not desirable, the husband may be within his legal rights in cancelling the DP for the partner and retaining it for his child. The visa status of children is usually pegged to the husband’s (or working parent’s) employment status in Singapore and will not usually have to change upon a divorce.”

Ms Poonam Mirchandani, partner at Mirchandani & Partners, which specialises in international family law, said current rules and regulations allow the spouse holding the EP to, in a way, “play God”.

She has seen a 25 per cent rise in the number of expats filing for divorce here in the last two years.

“If there is an ongoing court case, and the children are in Singapore, my firm has seen instances where ICA has given the spouse a long-term visit pass,” she said, referring to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

She added: “A trailing wife, whose marriage has broken down and whose husband behaves unconscionably, will find herself in a desperate position.

“Not only is her continued stay here dependent on the whims of her husband supporting her DP application, but he could also cut her off financially and deprive her of access to their home and children. As a foreigner, she is also not entitled to any legal aid.”

Mrs Franca Ciambella, managing director of Consilium Law Corp, said her firm has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of expat inquiries for divorce and separation this year. Many face complications in their visa situations.

Her firm tries to work with both parties or the opposing party’s lawyer to maintain the wife’s visa status in the interim.

“If that is not possible, (we ask) for a more reasonable timeline in the wife’s ability to stay… All of this is dependent on the clients themselves and their willingness not to allow their emotions to affect their decisions, which could cause disruption in the lives of their children.”

Ms Wong Kai Yun, co-managing partner of Chia Wong LLP, has seen spouses whose DPs were cancelled, give up and leave Singapore. Such a situation is what the husband is usually counting on.

Lawyer Gloria James-Civetta said that about half of the spouses in expat divorce cases she saw last year threatened to cancel the DP.

“After receiving my letter, they usually take steps to reinstate the DP at least until the divorce is finalised and, in some cases, until the partner can get a relevant pass to work here,” she added. “Usually, the stubborn ones will go to court.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower said that a person may also apply for a work pass on his or her own merit, adding: “Approval will be subject to the relevant eligibility criteria being met.”

Ms Mirchandani feels that the courts should more readily allow trailing spouses to relocate with their children, if they can show that they have no means of staying here.

Ms Yates said: “It could be easier if there was some sort of visa to allow the women caught in such situations to get back on their feet.

“They would like to work and not be completely dependent on their ex-husbands, but they need some support to get the right passes so they can be with their children.”

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Canada/EU: New twist in alleged B.C. parental abduction case


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There has been a new development in an international child abduction case with roots in British Columbia.

Three-year-old Kaydance Paige Etchells was allegedly abducted by her mother Lauren Ann Etchells last year from Saanich.

Etchells is accused of taking her daughter illegally out of country about a year after her marriage with her wife Tasha Brown fell apart.

Etchells had custody of Kaydence, but Brown had visitation rights and was working towards joint custody.

A dual Canadian-UK citizen, Etchells had been handed a court order in 2015 requiring her to surrender the child’s UK passport and not apply for a Canadian one.

Police allege Etchells lied to Passport Canada last year, obtaining travel documents for the child, and boarded a flight with Kaydence to Gatwick, UK in May 2016.

WATCH: ‘Abduction is just a word to anyone who hasn’t experienced it’: B.C. mom pleads for return of daughter

In June, a Canada-wide warrant was issued for Etchells.

Now, Marco Vandermerwe, a man believed to be Etchells’ new partner, is suspected to be in the Netherlands.

Saanich Police believe he can help locate Kaydance and her mother and are asking anyone with information on where he is to come forward.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to The EU or from Canada, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

 

Canada/EU: Saanich police following new leads in 2016 child abduction case


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Lauren Etchells, now the the subject of a Canada-wide warrant, holds daughter Kaydance, who turned three on Tuesday. It is believed that Etchells and her daughter are somewhere in Europe.

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Saanich police detectives are following new leads in an international child abduction case that has left one parent on the run and the other desperate to find her daughter.

Tasha Brown last saw daughter Kaydance on May 7, 2016, the day before her estranged partner, Lauren Etchells, and Kaydance boarded a plane from Vancouver to London Gatwick Airport. They were with Etchells’ new partner, Marco van der Merwe, and the couple’s newborn child.

“It’s absolute torture,” Brown said Tuesday, Kaydance’s third birthday.Etchells is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for one count of abduction by a parent, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and two counts of disobeying a court order.

Saanich police do not believe Kaydance is at risk of physical harm.Officers believe van der Merwe is in the Netherlands. It’s unclear whether Etchells and the two children are also in that country.

“Detectives are attempting to locate him in hopes that he can provide valuable information about the whereabouts of Kaydance and Lauren,” said Acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie of Saanich police.

Brown, who works as a teacher on call, said even this small bit of new information gives her hope Kaydance will be found. She said she tries to keep busy to protect her mental health. But some days, the sight of a stroller or a mother and daughter will trigger a deep depression.

Last year, Etchells told the Times Colonist in a letter that she would not turn herself in because she feared for her child’s safety. “I didn’t kidnap my child,” she wrote.

Investigators contacted van der Merwe, who was then believed to be in Qatar. Police said at the time that he was “less than co-operative” about Etchells’ whereabouts.

Brown said she suspected van der Merwe was going to try to sponsor Etchells and the children to live in Qatar through his work permit, so she contacted his employer and told them about the abduction allegations.

The alleged abduction is the culmination of a bitter custody battle between the two women.

Etchells and Brown married in August 2012, and Etchells gave birth to Kaydance after the couple decided to conceive using a sperm donor. After they separated in July 2015, Etchells was given full custody of Kaydance, but Brown was fighting for equal custody rights.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of van der Merwe, Etchells or Kaydance is asked to call Saanich police at 1-888-980-1919, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection at 1-866-543-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to The EU or from Canada, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

 

USA: Fargo parental kidnapper runs again to SD reservation


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FARGO — A Fargo woman who took her two children to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota after their fathers were awarded full custody three years ago, and was convicted of parental kidnapping, was released from jail last week and ordered to return the girls in 72 hours as part of her probation.

Instead, Tricia Taylor fled again back to the reservation in northwest South Dakota by cutting off her GPS ankle bracelet. The last trace of her going south toward South Dakota from Bismarck was Saturday, Sept. 23, about 75 hours after her release.

Cass County District Court Judge John Irby in Fargo agreed Wednesday, Sept. 27, that a warrant should stand for her arrest for violating terms of her probation. But Taylor’s defense attorney, Ross Brandborg, wanted the warrant to be stayed for a few days because they have a tribal court hearing scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29, where Taylor said she planned to ask the tribal court to give custody of the girls back to their fathers.

Meanwhile, the two Fargo fathers — Aarin Nygaard and Terrance Stanley —  have been waiting more than 1,000 days, or more than three years, to have their children in their custody.  Nygaard hasn’t seen his daughter since she was 18 months old. She is now 4½. Stanley has visited the reservation — reluctantly — to see his 9-year-old daughter a few times in recent months, but for only short periods of time.

Nygaard family spokesman Michael Nygaard, Aarin’s uncle, said they seriously doubt if there are any plans Friday for Taylor to tell the tribal court that she wants to give the girls back.

Instead, he said the plan for the Friday hearing in front of a newly appointed tribal judge from the nearby Standing Rock Indian Reservation was to deal with comity — the legal term for asking that the Cheyenne River tribe honor the state laws of North Dakota and legally have the custody of the girls returned to their fathers.

That issue wades into what has always been a trouble spot in tribal-state relations: The tribes say they are sovereign nations and don’t need to abide by state court rulings.

Michael Nygaard said they have had 11 hearings, but they were oftentimes canceled with little or no notice, in dealing with the jurisdictional, or comity,  issues.

He said they have never been to any tribal custody or visitation hearings because they want to stick to the jurisdictional issue and have the tribe honor the North Dakota custody ruling.

The girls, whom Michael Nygaard hopes and believes have probably been taken good care of, have been staying in Timber Lake on the reservation with Taylor’s half-sister, Jessica Ducheneaux, who has been granted temporary custody by the tribal court.

Thus, Taylor actually doesn’t have any legal custody on the reservation or in North Dakota. The Nygaards and Stanleys say they would be thrilled if she gives the girls back.

Michael Nygaard said they’ve said all along that they would have worked on dropping all charges if she would just return the girls to their fathers.

Instead, Taylor stuck it out in state prison on the parental kidnapping charge and in jail on the latest contempt charge in family court for not returning the girls.

A North Dakota Supreme Court ruling in late August allowed Taylor to be released last week. The justices ruled that Taylor, who is on parole for the parental kidnapping conviction, was being held beyond the six months allowed for contempt of court on a civil family court custody issue.

They reversed a decision by Judicial Referee Susan Solheim to keep Taylor in custody indefinitely until the girls were returned.

Taylor’s attorney in the Supreme Court case, Stormy Vickers, didn’t want to comment publicly any further on the Taylor case when contacted Wednesday.  Brandborg, who represented Taylor on the warrant delay request, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Nygaard, however, has his take on the case.

“We’ve said all along that it seems she hates the fathers more than she loves the girls,” Michael Nygaard said about Taylor’s reluctance to give up the girls and sit in prison and jail instead.

He said if she would cooperate, their families believe the girls need both parents.

“We aren’t trying to keep Tricia from the girls,” he said. Solheim’s custody ruling calls for Taylor to have supervised visitation with the girls.

Eventually, Michael Nygaard believes the girls will end up with their fathers. In the meantime, the drama continues.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

 

India: For The Children’s Sake. Why India must join the Hague Convention on child custody.


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The US-India relationship has grown exponentially, and our people-to-people ties are closely interwoven, as demonstrated by increases in travel, cultural exchanges and business partnerships, all of which reflect our shared values. Our mutual values are nowhere more evident than in our shared commitment to our families and children. In Hindi and English alike, the phrases “aaj ke batche humara ane walla kal” or “children are the future” aptly describe this shared belief.

Child custody disputes that sometimes erupt when a marriage dissolves create challenging and disruptive environments for children. This disruption is magnified when parents cannot agree on living arrangements, especially if one parent takes unilateral action and removes children from their country of residence, often in violation of that country’s laws. Families may suddenly find themselves in legal disputes in multiple countries, resulting in significant financial and emotional tolls. These legal battles can drag on for years, leaving children in limbo and potentially harming their development.

Fortunately, a global consensus has emerged to address this problem. Ninety-eight countries — spanning all continents, cultures and religions — recognise that despite different laws and norms, we share a commitment to the best interests of children. This consensus underscores that when parents cannot agree, the courts in the country where a child lives are best suited to settle custody issues.

This consensus also reflects another principle — as more families elect to live in a foreign country, they agree to follow the laws and respect court decisions in their country of residence. This is the basis of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a vital international instrument that works to protect children from the harmful effects of international parental child abduction. One of the Hague Convention’s greatest strengths is that disputes are resolved within months, not years, allowing parents and children to move on with their lives.

Indians and Americans care deeply about their families and want to ensure their children’s best interests are the focus of any custody decisions. That is why we believe that India, as a key member of the international community with a deep and rich legal tradition, should become the 99th country to join the Hague Convention.

The Convention offers multiple safeguards to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected. This begins with a focus on preventing parents from unilaterally removing children. The Convention encourages all parties to seek mutually acceptable child custody arrangements in accordance with the laws of the country they are living in. If a parent unilaterally removes the child to another country, the Hague Convention sets forth a process to resolve the issue.

The Convention does not resolve the custody dispute; it simply stipulates that the courts where the family has been living are in the best position to make child custody decisions. Children are not automatically returned to the left-behind parent. If a court orders children to be returned to their home country, it is then up to the courts there to decide on custody, in the best interests of the children. There are many examples in which courts awarded custody of the child to the taking parent and the child then relocated abroad with that parent.

Critics sometimes worry that joining the Convention will force abuse victims to return to their abusers. However, Article 13 of the Convention allows courts to decide not to return abducted children if the return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation. Further, many resources exist for victims of domestic violence in Convention countries. For example, US laws criminalise domestic violence and protect all victims. More than 10,000 American organisations and agencies provide support and services to victims of crime, and these services are available to people regardless of national origin or immigration status.

As the US-India relationship continues to expand and strengthen, we look forward to working with the government of India on this important issue that requires our urgent attention. We encourage India to join the community of 98 countries that have taken the important step of joining the Hague Convention. The children and families of both of our nations deserve nothing less.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from India, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

 

USA: Defendant convicted on all counts in Barry County double homicide


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NEOSHO, Mo. — “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” a member of the extended family of Casey Brace and Herb Townsend declared with obvious elation Thursday as she emerged from the courtroom after the reading of the verdicts in the trial of Christopher Paschall.

A jury of 10 women and two men took about four hours to find the 39-year-old defendant from Springdale, Arkansas, guilty of all six counts that he was facing in the double homicide of Brace, 28, and Townsend, her 76-year-old grandfather.

The verdicts returned at the end of the four-day trial — moved to Newton County on a change of venue from Barry County — include two convictions for first-degree murder, which carry mandatory terms of life without parole in Missouri. Paschall, the father of two of Brace’s three children, also was found guilty of three counts of armed criminal action and a single count of parental kidnapping.

After dismissing the jury, Circuit Judge Jack Goodman set Paschall’s sentencing hearing for Dec. 19.

“Two angels got their justice today,” Brace’s mother, Cathy Townsend, said after the verdicts.

She lost her father as well as her daughter in the fatal shootings Jan. 5, 2015, at Herb Townsend’s residence on Farm Road 1055 northwest of Washburn. Cathy Townsend said she was happiest for her daughter’s children.

“They don’t have their mother,” she said. “They don’t have their great-grandfather. But justice was done.”

Herb Townsend is believed to have placed a 911 call from the residence after being shot multiple times. The first deputy on the scene found Brace’s body lying just inside the back door of her grandfather’s house. He heard a moan and spotted Townsend lying on his back in the living room and pointing a rifle at him. The deputy ducked down, heard the rifle drop to the floor and realized Townsend had been shot and severely wounded.

Deputy Billy Watkins went to older victim and asked who shot them.

Steven Kretzer, an assistant attorney general acting as special prosecutor in the case, told jurors during closing arguments Thursday that “the most important piece of evidence” the state had presented was the dying declaration the grandfather made to Watkins and later repeated to an emergency medical technician. Both testified that Townsend spoke Paschall’s name.

Defense attorney Andrew Miller called Watkins back to the witness stand Thursday to try to cast doubt on what the deputy may have heard. Watkins acknowledged that he had been given Paschall’s name earlier that day when he went to Cathy Townsend’s home to field her complaint that Paschall had violated a protection order she had taken out on him. Miller’s line of questioning suggested that the deputy may have had the name on his mind to the extent that he simply imagined that was what he heard Townsend say.

Kretzer asked jurors to take the grandfather’s dying declaration and other pieces of circumstantial evidence in the state’s case and put them together to form a clear picture of the defendant’s guilt.

He argued that Cathy Townsend’s spotting of him in Washburn that day and photos taken by a motion-detection camera outside her home showing the same make and model of vehicle that he owned driving past her house place the defendant in the vicinity of the crime. The testimony of a neighbor of the grandfather, who saw Paschall that afternoon at a railroad crossing near his home on Farm Road 1050 driving a blue Nissan, further confirms his presence in the area, Kretzer said.

The prosecutor pointed out that yet another piece was Cathy Townsend’s knowledge that her granddaughter Alli had gone with her mother to Herb Townsend’s home. She later was found at the home of the defendant’s parents in Springdale, where investigators believe he fled with the girl after killing Brace and her grandfather.

“It’s not your job to put pieces together for (the prosecution),” Miller told jurors.

He said there was no evidence of any prior violence between Paschall and Brace. He emphasized the total lack of physical evidence in the state’s case. There was no blood found on the defendant or his daughter, Alli, and no dirt on his vehicle like one might expect had he been driving on dirt roads in the area. Neither did police in Arkansas find any evidence inside his car that would have suggested his involvement in the shooting when they went to his parents’ home to locate him and the girl for investigators in Missouri, Miller said.

“If somebody was at this crime scene when this happened, there would be evidence on those people’s bodies,” Miller said.

The defense attacked the integrity of the Barry County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation throughout the trial. Investigators did nothing to look for a .38-caliber handgun reported missing from the grandfather’s residence in the aftermath of the crime despite the fact that it may well have been the gun used in the shooting, Miller said.

While the sheriff’s office had a forensic examination performed on Casey Brace’s cellphone, they failed to have four other cellphones seized in the case examined in the same manner, including a phone found in the grass outside the grandfather’s residence. A crime lab detected the DNA of two males on that phone. But investigators may have “missed the biggest piece of evidence in this case” by failing to submit samples from anyone involved for comparison with those two DNA profiles, Miller said.

“There’s more than reasonable doubt,” Miller said. “There’s total uncertainty.”

Kretzer told the jury in rebuttal that the presence of two males’ DNA on the phone — believed to belong to the grandfather — was not surprising since Herb Townsend’s son lived with him. Kretzer said the missing .38-caliber gun may well be the murder weapon and suggested it is probably somewhere between Herb Townsend’s house and Springdale, where the defendant fled after the shooting. The lack of dust on Paschall’s vehicle proves nothing since he could easily have had the car washed, he said.

“Casey chose to leave the defendant,” Kretzer told the jury in closing. “She chose to make a better life for her and her children.”

The defendant chose to kill her, he said. But Paschall did not count on Brace’s grandfather being able to crawl to the phone and call 911, he said. He did not count on him being able to name their killer before dying. And he did not count on investigators being able to come after him so quickly, Kretzer said.

“And now he’s not counting on you to do the right thing and find him guilty,” he told jurors.

Custody battle

The two children of Chris Paschall and Casey Brace were the subject of a two-state custody battle after their mother’s murder. They currently reside with the family of their father’s brother.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States, feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)