Cox custody case ends todayPublished 11:07am Thursday, August 30, 2012
Today marks the final day of the custody trial for Emma Cox, the two-year-old daughter of Tabitha Belmonte and Dylan Cox, the Amor teens who died in a March 2012 homicide-suicide shooting. The final day is the last chance for either side of the custody debate to present evidence for who should be Cox’s legal guardian: Catherine and Darrin Cox, Dylan’s parents and the couple who Emma and Tabitha lived with since shortly after Emma was born, or Bobbie Teeple, Tabitha’s mother and the instigator of the custody dispute.
The trial, which has started at 9 a.m. the last two days and lasted until well into the afternoon, will be decided by Judge Waldemar Senyk. At this time, it is not known if he will “rule from the bench” or issue his decision at a later date.
Various reports from the custody dispute have shed light on an at-times bitter dispute, with anger and accusations on both sides. Though the Coxes are the parents of the homicide’s aggressor Dylan, 17, who shot 16-year-old Tabitha dead in the home they all shared before turning the gun on himself, Teeple has been described by some involved in the case as unavailable for her daughter and granddaughter before the shooting (one early court document alleged that she’d only seen Emma once between her birth and the shooting, and for less than a half hour).
She also reportedly backed out of some court-approved visitations after the court granted temporary custody to the Coxes last year, and the Coxes claim that Emma has sometimes been returned to them smelling like smoke.
Throughout the trial, Teeple’s parenting ability has been called into question. Witnesses and attorney Joshua Heggem brought up Teeple’s past methamphetamine abuse and passed alleged neglect of Tabitha.
Teeple’s lawyer Charles Krekelberg shot back by pointing out that Dylan Cox also abused drugs and alcohol and criticizing his parents for not sending the teenager to couples counseling.
While she was living with the Coxes, Tabitha signed a document stating that the Coxes would be Emma’s dedicated caretakers for a year if anything should happen to Tabitha. Krekelberg criticized this agreement as well, saying that Tabitha was not adequately represented at the time the document was signed.
The custody decision will not end the litigation between the two families. Earlier this month, Teeple and some of her family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Coxes and Dylan’s grandfather, Dennis Follman, who provided Dylan with the handguns he used in the homicide.