Video: Baby taken away

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updated 10/24/2005 4:41:07 PM ET 2005-10-24T20:41:07
STORY

The question of how to keep convicted sex offenders away from children is not easy.

One court has granted an emergency order barring a woman from taking her newborn baby home because her husband is a convicted child sex offender.  Though, the mother maintains she does not live with her husband.

The emergency court authorized Children and Youth Services of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, to take the child from the mother 24 hours after delivery.  County officials contended that the child would be unsafe because his father, DaiShin WolfHawk, is a convicted sex offender. The 53-year-old man was convicted of rape and sodomy in 1973, the victims two teenaged girls.

In a hearing Friday, that emergency court order was extended by Schuylkill County common pleas Judge Charles Miller for 10 days.  The baby has been placed in a foster home.  The mother, Melissa WolfHawk, has visitation rights and also she has an ACLU lawyer. 

Though the original court order was presumably based on the father‘s past crimes, the county had also produced two other documents damaging to both parents.  Doctors report that Melissa WolfHawk had acknowledged using cocaine and methamphetamine, and had once worked as a prostitute.  A New York parole document indicated that Mr. WolfHawk had sexually abused his daughter.

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor that specialized in child abuse and sex crimes, joined MSNBC-TV's Keith Olbermann to discuss this issue. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, COUNTDOWN HOST: We spoke with Ms. WolfHawk‘s lawyer, Mary Catherine Roper, who said that this woman and her husband have not lived in the same house for years and that Ms. WolfHawk did not plan on giving him any access to the child unless the order allowed it.  So why is the draconian treatment of her necessary in this equation?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, it‘s hard to answer that question fully, because, as you know, a lot of what the state knows is confidential by law, which is unfortunate.  When the ACLU comes out and starts smacking everybody around for violating her civil rights, we can‘t talk about what the state knows about the bad things she‘s done.

But we know about the drugs.  This guy has had two other victims, separate incidents.  They were children.  They were raped.

She lost custody of a 21-month-old child, apparently also his child.  that doesn‘t happen with nothing on the slate.  So I think we have to assume that bad things have happened beyond just that he‘s a sex offender that do implicate her ability to be a responsible parent to this new baby.

OLBERMANN: Drawing all of it out, though, to the logical conclusion, would the mother have to wind-up divorcing this man in order to regain custody of her own child? 

MURPHY: I‘m not sure it depends on the status of their marriage.  I think what really is the problem is that she‘s clearly likely to give him access to this child.  He has a demonstrated history of doing very bad things to children. 

You know, so many people have argued that she likes the guy, she doesn‘t think he‘s a beast, and she should be allowed to make the judgment about who she spends her life with and who she allows her children to be around. 

I could care less that the guy has already served his time.  That doesn‘t mean just because he‘s paid his debt to society that he‘s safe.  In fact, I could care less if he had been acquitted.  I‘ve got five kids.  I wouldn‘t let any one of them near the guy within miles. 

And, frankly, the fact that he‘s capable of biologically creating children doesn‘t mean that his own offspring are any less entitled to the same protection that I afford my children.

Because it isn‘t about him.  He doesn‘t own his children.  They‘re entitled to be protected.  It‘s a state‘s responsibility to protect kids from harm, especially at the hands of their parents, because the kind of abuse we‘re talking about happens behind closed doors.  It isn‘t easy to police. 

Ninety percent of child sex abuse is never reported.  By the time we find out even one incident, usually that guy has upwards of 100 victims under his belt before he gets caught the first time.  That‘s way too much harm to tolerate in the name of saying, 'Well, the guy‘s paid his debt.  Let‘s give him a blank slate.'

He doesn‘t get a blank slate.  He gets our harsh judgment, probably for the rest of his life. 

OLBERMANN: But, forgetting him, what about the mother?  Does she have to be kept away from the baby in order to punish this man? 

MURPHY: Well, again, it‘s unclear to me exactly why they‘re as suspicious of her, but she‘s shown more than bad judgment if she became pregnant by the very man that fathered her 21-month-old child and she lost custody of that child. 

Look, just because the kid, born just within the past day or so, has a mother with very bad judgment, doesn‘t mean we should subject him to that mother‘s bad future decisions, especially because it seems likely that she will expose that child to future harm, given what we know about her, and it isn‘t very much.

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