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In re M.T.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

February 22, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF M.T.

         From the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015PA01326 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Associate Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.

          OPINION

          KAREN ANGELINI, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Jocelyn T. appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her son M.T. On appeal, Jocelyn T. argues that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm.

         Background

         On June 25, 2015, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed a petition for protection of a child, for conservatorship, and for termination in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. At the time M.T. was removed from Jocelyn T.'s care, M.T. was thirteen months old. On August 9, 2016, the case proceeded to a bench trial. Jocelyn T., who had notice of the trial, did not appear. Her attorney announced "not ready" and stated that the last time he had had contact with his client had been July 15, 2016. The Department stated that Jocelyn T. had had notice of the trial setting. It explained that it was also trying to make contact with Jocelyn T. because she had just given birth to a new baby. The trial court noted that M.T. was also a very young child and that this was the second trial setting. The trial court decided to proceed with the trial.

         A. Testimony of Vicki Williams

         Vicki Williams, an investigator with the Department, explained that M.T. came into the care of the Department in June 2015:

The referral came in for neglectful supervision. The allegation stated that mom and [Timothy W.][1] had gone to a doctor's office. They had hit a grandmother and her granddaughter in the office while they were holding [M.T.] in the office.

         According to Williams, when she spoke with Jocelyn T. during the investigation, Jocelyn T. and Timothy W. claimed that M.T. had been in the stroller during the incident. Williams testified, however, that there was videotape of the incident and what Jocelyn T. and Timothy W. claimed "wasn't true." "[T]hey were holding [M.T.]." Williams testified that even after being told of the videotape, Jocelyn T. still did not "change her story."

Williams testified that based on her investigation, she had concerns about M.T.'s welfare:
I was told there was domestic violence between the couple - that they were seen in the apartment complex fighting, physically, between the two of them. [M.T.] was always clean when I saw him. He was never - you know, I wasn't necessarily concerned about the way they treated him, but the way they treated each other in front of him.

         According to Williams, the Department had initially wanted "to do a parental child safety placement" and when she went to Jocelyn T.'s apartment to discuss the matter, Jocelyn T. "was willing to do it." Jocelyn T. called a friend who was willing to care for M.T. However, Timothy W. came home, demanded that Williams and the police leave the apartment, and stated that he would not allow M.T. to be taken care of by the friend. Williams testified that the Department then filed an affidavit for M.T.'s removal.

         Williams testified that as a result of the incident at the doctor's office, both Jocelyn T. and Timothy W. were arrested. Jocelyn T. was charged with child endangerment, and Timothy W. was charged with two counts of assault bodily harm. Williams ...


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