Judge: Mark Sievers can keep custody of his two children
FORT MYERS, Fla.- Mark Sievers will maintain custody of his two children, a Lee County judge ruled Monday.
Judge Lee A. Schreiber described the state Department of Children and Families’ case as one based on “probability and speculation.”
“The possibility that the father would abscond, that he would place the children in harm’s way, that he would intentionally harm the children as he is alleged to have harmed their mother, is just that. It’s a possibility,” she said. “We are suspicious this may happen, we have concerns that this may happen, there’s a possibility this may happen. That’s not the standard for removing children, so I deny the shelter petition.”
DCF, which requested the initial emergency shelter hearing on Friday, was given until Monday to present more evidence showing that Sievers’ two daughters, ages 8 and 11, are in danger. The department requested the hearing after documents released by authorities last week detailed their suspicion of Sievers’ involvement in his wife’s killing.
Sievers has not been charged in the crime.
DCF Attorney Kristin Allain argued Friday that the department fears the children are in “impending danger” due to concerns regarding Sievers’ reaction if he is arrested.
Allain maintained that argument on Monday, adding that DCF officials are concerned over the children’s lack of contact with the family of Sievers’ wife, saying he “controls who they talk to and when.”
“Yes, we do acknowledge he has been parenting the children appropriately but there has been an imminent risk of harm to these children the entire time,” she said. “It’s very hard to predict what can happen in the heat of the moment when facing situations such as these.”
While the children showed no signs of abuse or neglect, Allain mentioned on Friday a Nov. 23 medical neglect report. DCF officials did not elaborate on the report, citing HIPPA rules and state law regarding ongoing child protection investigations.
Sievers made custody arrangements in case of his incarceration, but the person he chose was denied due to having a verified sexual abuse report, Allain said. She added that the department has a plan in place for the children in case of his arrest.
Pamela Montgomery, who represented Mark Sievers, argued on Friday that any assumption of an arrest is speculative and questioned the validity of the documents because they were not signed or dated. She called one of the case’s lead detectives to the stand on Friday to verify the documents.
“The father and I think the court needs to balance the trauma of removal from the father, against any imminent harm which the department in our opinion has failed to show,” she said Monday.
Lee Hollander, Sievers’ personal attorney, believes DCF called the hearing to ‘save face’ in light of past incidents where the department didn’t intervene enough, such as the case involving the death of Chance Walsh.
“I kinda suspect DCF was trying to show that ‘hey, we did something,’ when they’ve had some other cases where it didn’t turnout as well and they were on the hot seat for those,” he said.
Dr. Teresa Sievers, 46, was found dead inside her Bonita Springs home on June 29. Curtis Wayne Wright, 47, Mark Sievers’ friend since elementary school, is charged with second-degree murder. Jimmy Ray Rodgers, 25, was arrested in connection with the killing. He is serving six months in federal prison for a probation violation in an unrelated gun case.
The documents, which were the focus of DCF’s case, detailed the evidence against Wright and Rodgers and the alleged motivation for their involvement.
“This murder was committed in expectation of Wright getting paid an undisclosed amount of money from Mark Sievers and then in turn, he was to pay Rodgers $10,000 for his involvement,” Lee County Sheriff’s Office detectives said in the documents.