‘HE GOT DOWN ON HIS KNEES!’
Odessa – Coco and Millie are fourteen and thirteen years old. They lived about half their lives separate from their mother, a woman who walked out on an east Texas marriage she could no longer stomach.
Within 31 days, she realized her mistake, and it took seven years to straighten it out. For two years, Suzan Meadows has had her girls at home in this west Texas petroleum capital in the land of Mojo. The way it happened points out how the Texas Family Law system works – until you get the right lawyer.
She went through five of them – five different law offices staffed with attorneys who refuse to return calls, make appointments, answer questions – and that’s not counting the attorneys who were appointed as ad litem counsel and guardians of her girls.
As part of a final go-round, Canton attorney Paul Elliott, who was representing her ex-husband Michael Chartier of Wills Point, bamboozled the two girls. He made them think that they were going to their grandfather’s house as part of a ruse that would whisk them to their mother’s. But they were mistaken. When they arrived, here came their dad and stepmother – and boy were they – well, angry.
In extended visits over the weekend in the law offices of Cynthia Clack, they recalled how they were interrogated for hours, their cell phones perused for calls – to whom and for what purpose a matter of intense questioning.
In the events that led up to the lawyer’s double-cross, Coco recalls, “He got down on his knees!” She says the lawyer Paul Elliott spoke with them as a man of conscience, someone who was trying to help them, and then he let them have it.
When her mother learned of her younger daughter’s abuse at the hands of the couple – she alleges they slapped her girl around – she bristles. Millie recalls, “I gave up hope at that point.” Her mom recalls her younger daughter wouldn’t talk to anyone. Coco, on the other hand, vowed to do nothing to get her sister hit again.
Coco recalls she had a resolution that she would never give up – ever. She recalled another incident in which she and her little sister ran to some neighbors’ house to seek shelter. They hid in a closet until the police arrived. The officers took their phones so they could study the calls. “When the cops came, they laughed.” She said one item they found to their merriment involved the seven pages of disturbance calls police made at their address.
In the summer of 2013, Suzan Meadows stormed into Ms. Clack’s office and said that, come the end of their summer vacation visit, she wasn’t taking them home to their father’s house. Clack was in the middle of another hotly contested divorce and custody case involving Suzan Meadows’ younger son.
Though the Odessa lawyer was not hired in the east Texas case, she went into action right away. Judges in both locations were hard-pressed to understand unless they were reminded of the emergent nature of the application.
Ms. Clack filed an application for an emergency protective order in Odessa’s161st Judicial District Court, alleging that not only did the lawyers appointed and hired to look over the children of Suzan Meadows neglect their duties, they were inattentive to their needs and refused to return phone calls – even when she, Cynthia Clack, a fellow officer of the Court, called them.
When they hit the court at Canton, seat of Van Zandt County, Ms. Meadows’ son’s father joined up forces with her first husband, Mr. Chartier, the one who had custody of her girls, and for reasons she can ascribe only to a merciful and perceptive God, signed away his parental rights in perpetuity. For the rest of his life, he can come no closer than three miles to the girls, or face a trip to jail.
Somehow, the events pointed out in the investigations carried out by Cynthia Clack and the resulting application for an emergency protective order made it easier to let her client, the mother of two girls of whom she had not had custody for seven years, and raise her daughters in her own home.
In an unusual occurrence, as an attorney not hired on a case, she broke a monumental logjam and achieved righteous results. Asked how all this came about, she muses. “I think of myself as a child of God. I do work that is pleasing to Him,” Cynthia Clack explains. “The big question is who and what is your source. Well, my source is God. We not only believe in miracles; we expect them.”
In this video report, RadioLegendary paid a visit to Ms. Charlotte Starr, a retired Midland school teacher who has for a quarter century served as a counselor, parenting instructor, and expert witness in court battles over child custody cases involving accusations of violence, rape and incest.
It’s her belief that the system was put in place in good faith, but it doesn’t always work as intended.
As she viewed a video made by Stephen Warren of one of his daughters ten years previously, she shook her head sadly. “I wish I could say it’s uncommon,” she said. In the video, the little girl, who was five at the time, explains how someone named “Poppy” does “a bad thing” to her, and she gestured with her little hands to show specifically where and how he does it.
“It’s a secret,” the child said. In this video, Ms. Starr explains why she believes the child was telling the truth. “She looks away because she is sworn to keep the secret…She uses the same words every time she tells the story.”
As the meeting comes to a close, Cynthia Clack explains how the District Attorney who failed to act on the apparent evidence presented in the video was later convicted of a financial offense in office, and the assistant DA who knew of the video committed suicide.
A RadioLegendary video presentation:
In listening to the way the two Chartier girls were double-crossed by attorney Paul Elliott, who was hired to represent their father, a professional who misrepresented himself as seeking to help them escape, one is forced to ask, “How is that different from David Rohlf, an attorney representing Stephen Warren’s ex-wife, presenting an indictment for an alleged aggravated sexual assault, but failed to tell the Court the case had been dismissedl?”
This is the reason Stephen Warren is court-ordered to see his children at Family Place, a certified visitation center.
In a previous story, conditions with child custody, CPS and Family Courts receives some scrutiny: