Less than a stranger

She said it was abuse. He said it was manipulation. By the time a Denton court got through with this messy custody battle, a good mother would lose her kids forever.

"People do get railroaded in the courtroom," says Dallas attorney Keith Becker, whose firm has considered taking Andrews' case for its next round in court. "It isn't comforting when there's so much at stake."

Shiny-haired, adorable, born to an upper-income family, these were "the kids that everybody dreams about having. Bright. Gregarious. Bubbly. Delightful personalities," a social worker said.

Blond, blue-eyed Adam and Katie DuMontier seemed to have everything--except parents who could provide them a family.

Their mother, Katherine Andrews, is the oldest of three daughters born to a working-class Catholic family in Milwaukee that had more than its share of problems. She remembers a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and an uncle, but one of her sisters told a jury in 1990 that those memories were false, that it was Katherine who was the source of trouble for the family: drug use, rebelliousness, and frequent running-away incidents.

Raised through her late teens in a foster home, Katherine earned a two-year nursing certificate, moved to Texas during the '70s oil boom, and went through a brief first marriage before she met David DuMontier, a pilot 10 years her senior. She was working as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and was almost immediately bowled over by his attention and generosity.

DuMontier, who also had been married once before, was an unusual sort for an airline pilot, she told an interviewer doing a court-ordered report on the family at the time of their divorce. He wasn't the womanizer that others were, and he was considerate. "When there was turbulence, he'd tell us to sit down, unlike many others who just left us out there to spill drinks on ourselves," she recalled.

The son of a Bristol Myers executive, David DuMontier grew up "a real vanilla kid" in North Carolina, according to the same interviewer's report. His family life was uneventful and somewhat superficial, DuMontier said, and he turned his attentions toward school and career.

In 1969, the year after he graduated from North Carolina State, his Vietnam-era draft deferment ran out, and he enlisted in the Air Force. Finishing first in his pilot-training class, DuMontier flew supply missions to Saigon until the end of the war. He was hired on with Southwest in 1978 and made captain in 22 months.

"He really pursued me," Katherine recalls. "Like when you would go on a flight, you'd leave your car keys in your box at [Love Field]. He'd take my car and have it repaired, fill it with gas. He'd go out of his way to do something romantic, send me red roses. We'd just started dating when he bought me a horse for Christmas--a beautiful Appaloosa.

"I said, 'I can't accept it,' and I didn't until we were engaged. I figured if we broke up, I'd have to sell the horse. It cost $350 a month just to board it."

She later recalled hearing rumors among the flight attendants and other airline personnel that DuMontier was gay or bisexual. She remembers thinking that it could be true, but those thoughts didn't deter her from getting serious with a man who showered her with more attention than she'd ever received before.

They dated for about 10 months before their wedding in 1982, and by that time Katherine was already pregnant with their first child. "For our honeymoon, we went to Hawaii," Katherine says. "I'd tell people I went to Maui, threw up for a week with morning sickness, and came home."

The DuMontiers moved to a large ranch house on three acres in Roanoke, a bucolic corner of southern Denton County, but within the first year of their marriage, they sought counseling.

"When we were dating, he'd say he liked to do all the things I did, but he really didn't, and soon into the marriage he stopped trying," Katherine says.

Katherine had quit flying to raise the couple's two young children, and she felt isolated "out in Roanoke with two babies."

As a diversion, she took control of the local Humane Society and--with what others say is her habit of pursuing something to the point of obsession--began a push to build an animal shelter in Denton. Meanwhile, she turned the family ranchette into an ersatz menagerie housing dozens of lost or injured animals, including five or six indoor cats, several dogs, and 30 to 50 other pets and farm animals.

"When David became himself, things started happening," Katherine says. In her view, that meant workaholism, drinking, miserliness, and various episodes of slapping her around, Katherine would claim later in court pleadings.

Although he was flying as much as possible, earning more than $130,000 a year, David made her take the kids to a free clinic in Dallas for checkups and preventive care not covered by his insurance, she says.

DuMontier, who declined to be interviewed for this story, denied several times in court that he had any problems with alcohol. And as of 1993, he had passed three random drug tests given by his airline.

A psychologist who evaluated Katherine during the divorce decided her problems in the marriage grew in part from an insecure personality given to impulsive, manipulative, and self-serving behavior. The report described her as "someone who has difficulty maintaining relationships," although that hardly applied to her kids.

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