My name is Amy Reddick.  I live in Grapevine, Texas.  I have two children – Emily, who is 11, and Connor, who just turned two.

On December 15, 2011, I answered a knock on my door to see 3 armed Tarrant County Constables.  They came into my home and took my 17-month-old son, Connor and gave him to my estranged husband, Benjamin, who is not only mentally and emotionally unstable, but is also a drug user and dealer.

I met Ben on a web site called gothscene.com, which is a dating site geared towards goths, punks, and people who claim an alternative lifestyle.  Having been raised in the Church of Christ and graduated from a Christian university, I was attracted to his “bad boy” image and his profile stating he was a “hardcore” punk.  We started dating shortly after we met; I was living in Grapevine, TX and he was in Lubbock, TX.  While we were dating Ben was growing marijuana in his backyard and was arrested for possession.  He was put on probation, during which time he promised me he was done with drugs and would never smoke or sell weed again.  Ben and I were married in December of 2008 and I gave birth to our son Connor on July 15, 2010.

During the course of our marriage we ran into some financial problems, which Ben decided to try to solve by growing marijuana again and selling it to people he knew from work and other connections he had.  I asked him repeatedly not to do this; I told him I didn’t like it and it wasn’t worth the risk of losing our home and our family for a few extra dollars.  However, Ben is a very negative and controlling person, and refused to listen or to stop what he was doing.  Because of this, and because of his negativity and emotional abuse towards my daughter Emily and myself, I decided the best thing for me and for my children was to remove myself from the situation.

In August of 2011 I packed up my kids and moved into an extended-stay hotel in Lubbock.  We stayed there for several weeks until I found a mobile home I could afford to rent on my limited income.  During this time I allowed Ben frequent visitation with Connor; any time he asked to see him, I obliged, and even called him at every opportunity to see if he wanted to have Connor on his days off.  Ben was distraught over my leaving and told me he was seeing a psychologist to try and deal with his anger issues and emotional problems.  Then something happened that changed everything for me.

On October 21, I texted Ben and told him I was going to visit my parents for the weekend.  He had had Connor for several days and I asked him when he wanted me to come pick him up, either the night before or the morning I planned to leave town.  Even though we had been living apart for 3 months by this time, he informed me that I did not have permission to go see my family.  I responded that I had not asked for permission, just wanted to know when would be a good time to pick up my son.  I gave him a day and time that I would be there.  Knowing Ben’s aggressive personality, I anticipated a confrontation and called the Lubbock Police Department on my way to Ben’s parents’ house, where I was to pick up my son.  I explained the situation to them and asked them to have an officer meet me at the house to prevent anything bad from happening.  They refused and told me I would need to meet Ben at the police station if I wanted an officer present.  I knew Ben would not agree to that, so I proceeded to his parents’ house and hoped for the best.  Ben was there at the house when I came in, and I avoided even talking to him because I didn’t want a scene or an argument.  I gathered up my son and turned to go back to the car.  At this point Ben rushed at me and grabbed my arm to try to keep me from leaving.  In the process he hit the front door, which struck Connor and caused him to cry.  Ben’s father, Randy, and his mother Nancy were there and witnessed the incident.  Ben’s father restrained him long enough for me to be able to leave the house.  I was in tears, my son was in tears, my daughter was waiting in the car confused and worried about what was going on, and I knew something had to change.  I went home and had a long talk with my mother, and I decided it was time to move back home to the Dallas area, where I had friends and family to support me and I wouldn’t have to put myself in that situation again.  When I returned to Lubbock after the weekend, Ben had left me a letter asking me to “forgive his transgressions” and stating that he was on drugs that affected his mental state; that he was not himself.

I arranged for a transfer to the Wal Mart in Roanoke, where I had worked before moving to Lubbock, and found an apartment in Grapevine.  I started packing my things and made a couple of trips back to the house to gather things I had left behind.  In the course of these visits, I found both prescription and illegal drugs and paraphernalia, as well as an AR-15 automatic rifle that he was building.  I took pictures of the things I found and sent them to Ben’s father out of concern for his well being. I received no response from Randy, but got a text from Ben saying “thanks for the heads up, all gone.”   On November 11, my father came to Lubbock to help me move.  We went to the house one last time to try and get some of my children’s things, only to find that Benjamin had changed the locks and I was unable to get into my home.  I left everything else behind and took my children with what little I had, and went to Grapevine.  I moved into Dove Park Apartments on November 12, signed a year lease and enrolled Emily in Dove Elementary right across the street.  I was afraid for my children’s and my safety after the assault that occurred at Ben’s parents house, so I attempted to file a protective order against him.  I was informed that since there was only one incidence of violence and no police report, I could not file the protective order.  During this time Ben never attempted to contact me, and when I contacted him to try to set up a time for him to have visitation with his son, he postponed the visitation and never tried to reschedule it.

After I moved to Grapevine, I started seeing an old friend from school, who was very supportive and helped me make many positive changes in my lifestyle.  I started a vegetarian diet and a regular exercise routine, and lost close to 40 lbs. in a matter of just a few months.  My children were happy and healthy, and things were looking up for my family, until December 15.  As I said before, that day 3 constables came to my door and informed me that they were authorized to take Connor from my custody and hand him over to my husband, who was waiting outside to take him back to Lubbock.  I was devastated and shocked.  The officers served me a paper that stated that Connor was being removed from my home because I was a flight risk, and I was living with a convicted felon.  Neither of these accusations was true, and I later presented evidence in court that disproved them.

I immediately started making phone calls and retained a lawyer in Lubbock to help me get my son back.  I found out that Ben had filed for divorce, but didn’t know where I was working.  The process server went to the Wal Mart in Grapevine, and served my papers to an employee named Amy Spears.  Needless to say, I was unaware of the scheduled court date and failed to appear.  Since I was unable to defend myself in court, the judge sided with Ben and ruled that he should have temporary custody of Connor.  My lawyer filed a motion for a new hearing, which was granted with the same judge from the first hearing, and we went to court on January 30, 2012.

During this hearing, there was no court reporter present, so I am unaware whether or not a transcript even exists.  I presented evidence of Ben’s drug use, as well as evidence that I had no reason to flee, nor was I living with anyone other than my children.  I submitted a copy of my lease with only my name and the names of my children, as well as documentation of my transfer and the raise I received when I moved to Grapevine.  Ben’s lawyer submitted printouts of my posts on Facebook and used them to try to prove that I was in a relationship with another man and that he was taking care of my children and me.  Throughout the trial, the focus was on Ben’s allegations that I was in a relationship with someone else, and how that apparently made me an unfit parent.  In the end, the judge looked at my husband and told him, “if you’re selling drugs, stop it.”  He ruled that Ben had the more stable environment for Connor and allowed him to keep temporary custody.  I was allowed a 2-hour visit with my son and went home devastated and empty-handed.

The temporary orders put in place after the second hearing also said that I was to put my entire income tax return in escrow, to be split with Ben after the divorce was finalized.  Unfortunately, when I moved back home I had to replace everything that was left behind in Lubbock after Ben locked me out of my house, and I needed money to pay my lawyer, so I could not surrender my tax return.  Since this was a violation of a court order, my lawyer decided to withdraw from my case.  Now I was without my child and had no representation to help me get him back.

In the months following our hearing, an officer in the Narcotics Division of the Lubbock Police Department contacted me.  The bailiff that had been in the courtroom during the hearing had called LPD and reported Ben for growing and selling marijuana, and the Narcotics Division was conducting an investigation.  I was also contacted by Child Protective Services, who had received reports that there were drugs and weapons in the house and Connor might be in danger.

During this time I was allowed to see my son one weekend a month, when Ben would meet me halfway in Abilene to make the exchange.  I asked him to let me see him more often, but he refused.  The first few visits I had with Connor were very stressful.  He was sick every time I got him, and he was emotionally distressed – he clung to me constantly and cried excessively, and the only word he would say, all the time, was “mama.”  When Connor was living in my home in November, he was happy and healthy and weighed right around 29 pounds.  When I finally got visitation with him in February, he weighed 22 pounds and cried if I even left the room.   Several times Ben cancelled or rescheduled my visits because Connor was sick and had been to the doctor.  When I got him for Spring Break on March 10, Ben told me he had been sick and throwing up for three days.  After two more days of vomiting and listlessness, I took Connor to the emergency room, where he was treated for a stomach virus.  His weight at the hospital was 22 pounds, and when I got him for my summer visitation on June 1, he still weighed 22 pounds, at 19 months old.   During the six weeks that I had Connor this summer, his father never called to talk to him or tried to check on him.  He came to pick him up for Father’s Day weekend, and then asked me to pick him up 3 hours earlier than scheduled on that Sunday.  He did not request another visit with Connor the rest of the time period.

Six months after the first hearing, a date was finally set for mediation and a final hearing.  I had been trying to get Legal Aid with no results; they told me they did not have anyone available to represent me.  I drove to Lubbock for mediation on July 25, where my husband and his lawyer tried to offer forgiveness of my financial obligations if I would agree to let Ben keep primary custody of my son, and give him my car.  I explained to the mediator that I would never trade money for my child, and the mediation was ruled an impasse.

At this point, I have a court date scheduled for August 29, I have no legal representation or funds to hire a lawyer, and I have gotten no support from the state or any of its agencies.  My children are the most important thing in my life, and my heart is heavy as I consider the possibility that I might not get my son back; that my daughter will not grow up with her brother, and my son will not know his sister.  Connor is in the custody of a mentally unstable, violent, angry drug dealer, and he should never have been removed from my home in the first place.  I am a good mother and I love both my children immensely…all I want is to put my family back together, and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen.  I have tried every avenue I know and have been turned away.  Now I’m asking for your help.  If you can offer financial assistance, or if you know someone who can; if you know a lawyer who would be willing to take my case, or if you can offer me any help at all…please contact me.

connorsmom3@gmail.com

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