Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re C.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

May 9, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF C.M., G.M., J.W, AND F.W., CHILDREN

          FROM COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 2 OF WICHITA COUNTY TRIAL COURT NOS. 12687-JR-F, 12687-JR-F-2

          PANEL: GABRIEL, KERR, and PITTMAN, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          LEE GABRIEL JUSTICE

         Appellant Sue White[2] appeals from the trial court's final order terminating her parental rights to her children Gail Moore, Calvin Moore, James White, and Faye White. In two issues, Sue argues that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights was in her children's best interests. We disagree and affirm the trial court's final order of termination. See Tex. R. App. P. 43.2(a).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Sue married Greg Moore in 2009 when she was seventeen and quickly had two children: Gail in September 2010 and Calvin in July 2012. The marriage soon fell apart, and Greg and Sue divorced in the fall of 2012 shortly after Calvin's birth. Sue averred that Greg was physically abusive; but this issue was not raised in their divorce, and Greg denied Sue's claims. In any event, Greg, who was twenty-one at the time of the divorce, believed the children would be better off without him and did not request custody or visitation. Greg sporadically paid child support when he was employed and did not see the children for approximately four years because Sue told him she had a protective order against him. Further, Sue took steps to hide where she lived so Greg could not find her or their children.

         Sue met Tom White in March 2013 through a dating web site. Tom had custody of his two children from his prior relationship with Christy Atkins: Cole White, who was nine, and Andy White, who was four. Sue and Tom married in September 2013, and their son James White was born in February 2014. When Sue was pregnant with her fourth child in March 2016, Cole and Andy began to disclose what was later described as "a horrific pattern of . . . psychological torture and emotional and physical abuse" by Sue against them. For example, Cole and Andy asserted that Sue withheld food from them and forced them to drink cayenne pepper mixed in apple cider vinegar to make them vomit the food she believed they stole.[3] They also accused Sue of punishing them by locking them in a closet for extended periods with a bucket to use as a bathroom, making them lick the toilet, placing a lighter under their tongues, and hitting them with a boat paddle, a belt, and metal spoons. Eventually Sue was indicted with twenty-seven counts of felony injury to Cole, Andy, and Gail.[4] See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.04(a), (e)-(f) (West Supp. 2017).

         After the abuse came to light in March 2016, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) filed a petition to terminate Christy's and Tom's parental rights to Cole and Andy, Sue's and Greg's parental rights to Gail and Calvin, and Sue's and Tom's parental rights to James. The trial court granted DFPS's emergency motion to remove the children from Sue and Tom's custody and named DFPS as their temporary managing conservator. Cole and Andy were placed with Tom's parents, while Gail, Calvin, and James were placed with Sue's maternal aunt and uncle, Mary and Don Hampton. Sue gave birth to Faye White while she was incarcerated in July 2016; the trial court immediately named DFPS her temporary managing conservator, and DFPS placed Faye with the Hamptons. Christy voluntarily relinquished her parental rights to Cole and Andy; Tom voluntarily relinquished his parental rights to Cole, Andy, James, and Faye.[5]See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 161.001(b)(1)(K), 161.103 (West Supp. 2017).

         After her June 2016 arrest, Sue was incarcerated until she posted a bond in 2017 for the $405, 000 bail amount. Based on the nature of the criminal allegations against them, Sue and Tom could not communicate with the children while on pretrial release. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.41 (West 2015). On September 5, 2017, after a seven-day trial, a jury found Sue guilty of three counts of first-degree injury to a child and of thirteen counts of third-degree injury to a child.[6] The trial court sentenced her, based on the jury's punishment verdict, to concurrent sentences of forty-five years' confinement for each of the first-degree felonies and ten years' confinement for each of the third-degree felonies. Sue filed a motion for new trial asserting only that "the verdict is contrary to the law and the evidence, " which was deemed denied. See Tex. R. App. P. 21.3(h), 21.8(c). Sue has appealed the convictions, and her appeal is currently pending in this court.

          When Sue's criminal trial concluded, the trial court heard DFPS's termination petition. After a three-day bench trial, the trial court terminated Christy's and Tom's parental rights to Cole and Andy and appointed DFPS as their permanent managing conservator.[7] Based on Greg's conduct during the pendency of the termination action, DFPS abandoned its requests to terminate his parental rights to Gail and Calvin and to be named their managing conservator. The parties agreed that the trial court, therefore, had two options regarding Gail and Calvin: appoint Sue managing conservator or appoint Greg. The trial court appointed Greg permanent managing conservator of Gail and Calvin and terminated Sue's parental rights. Finally, the trial court terminated Sue's and Tom's parental rights to James and Faye and appointed DFPS as their permanent managing conservator.[8] In summary and as relevant to this appeal, the trial court concluded that DFPS had shown by clear and convincing evidence that Sue had engaged in conduct satisfying multiple statutory termination grounds[9] and that the termination of her parental rights to Gail, Calvin, James, and Faye was in their best interests. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b), § 161.206(a) (West Supp. 2017). Sue now argues on appeal that the evidence heard by the trial court was legally and factually insufficient to support the best-interest finding required by section 161.001(b)(2). Sue does not argue that the evidence insufficiently supported a finding that her actions met a statutory conduct ground listed in section 161.001(b)(1). No party challenges the trial court's termination of Christy's and Tom's parental rights to Cole and Andy, and Tom does not appeal from the termination of his parental rights to James and Faye.

         II. STANDARD AND SCOPE OF REVIEW

         Although the parent-child relationship is to be protected, it may be terminated upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the parent's actions satisfy a statutory ground justifying termination and that termination would be in the child's best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 161.001(b), 161.206; See In re E.R., 385 S.W.3d 552, 554-55 (Tex. 2012). Evidence is clear and convincing if it "produce[s] in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 101.007 (West 2014).

         If the legal sufficiency of the evidence is challenged, we review all the evidence in the light most favorable to the finding, resolving any disputed facts in favor of the finding if a reasonable fact-finder could have done so and disregarding all evidence that a reasonable fact-finder could disregard. See In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005). We may not re-weigh or re-determine credibility issues, again deferring to the fact-finder's determinations if reasonable. See id. at 573-74. A factual-sufficiency issue also requires a review of the entire record, giving due deference to the fact-finder's findings. See In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 500 (Tex. 2014). Evidence is factually sufficient if a fact-finder could reasonably form a firm conviction or belief that the termination of the parent-child relationship would be in the child's best interest. See In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 28 (Tex. 2002).

         III. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.