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.

Even by her husband's account at the time, Katherine was the one who cooked the kids' meals and took them to the doctor, swimming lessons, and the little Montessori school where they began their education--a life told in a family photo collection filled with ponies and perfect smiles.

One neighbor, Karley Patteson, described Katherine as a "very responsible" mother. "I kind of always admired her discipline," she said. "She not only told them no, but she also set them down and explained things to them."

Until the divorce in 1990, Katherine provided the bulk of hands-on care-giving, and Adam and Katie showed no signs of being anything but well-adjusted and happy. "The three of us built a life together," Katherine says. "We started every day together and ended every day together...I didn't have baby sitters."

Six years into their increasingly indifferent marriage--one in which their sex life stopped and their fights about money multiplied--Katherine took some bold steps to get out. Those moves gave DuMontier ammunition to use against her when they fought later for custody of the kids.

With his diamond-cut jaw line and athletic build, nearly everyone says Mark Andrews resembles a healthy Christopher Reeve. Katherine met the handsome veterinarian when he called on an ailing horse, and their relationship grew to friendship and then an affair. Mark Andrews was also involved in a troubled marriage, caused in part by his wife's problems with his faith in the Church of Scientology, which she viewed as a cult.

In December 1987, Mark Andrews moved out and, having no place to go, went to visit David and Katherine DuMontier. Unaware of the affair, David invited him to stay.

It didn't take DuMontier long to learn his wife's lover had just moved into his house. He told a counselor later that Mark Andrews greeted him one day with the words "I just found the woman I want to spend my life with, and it's your wife."

DuMontier left the household on Christmas Day 1987, and filed for divorce the next year.

Katherine relinquished control of the house in late 1988 and moved in with Mark in a house in nearby Argyle. The kids went with her, and they enjoyed being with Mark's two school-age children, Steven and Stephanie, even if they didn't take at first to Mark, who was stricter than their father.

In the two years before the divorce went to trial, there were moments of extreme animosity between Katherine and David DuMontier--he seemed anxious at times to punish her, a counselor said--and other times when it seemed as if they'd solve their differences.

By 1990, Katherine Andrews recalls, "We had worked it out basically that he'd get the property and I'd get the kids." But that arrangement, under which the kids would live primarily with her and visit their father every other weekend, broke down in a disagreement over child support. Katherine says she only wanted $1,500 a month, but that was too much for David.

The divorce went to trial in the summer of 1990, with both seeking custody. The proceedings ended up centering on Katherine and Mark's religious beliefs, which seemed a little odd to small-town jurors, and their affair.

"There was testimony to things like she had seances and going back to past lives--it was really bizarre," recalls Curtis Loveless, DuMontier's lawyer in the divorce case, a longtime Denton attorney with an office just off the courthouse square.

Katherine had become interested in New Age ideology in 1987, but Loveless put as wild a spin as he could on her belief in being transported to other spiritual worlds, where she would talk with her spiritual gatekeeper, an old Chinese man named Yun-Chin.

Loveless may have tried to make Katherine look flaky, but jurors were more interested in the way Mark Andrews came into her life, and that they were living together out of wedlock. "The majority of the jurors made their decision based on Katherine's affair with Mark," juror Deborah O'Keeffe said later in a letter to Katherine Andrews' lawyer.

Even though he was frequently away flying and needed a baby sitter at least a dozen nights a month, the jury gave David DuMontier primary custody of the children. Katherine was named "possessory conservator," meaning they would visit her every other weekend, Wednesday nights, plus time during the summer and holidays, a standard schedule in divorce cases.

"I had been a full-time mommy, and all of a sudden I'd have to leave them off," Katherine recalls. "They'd cry and cry and cry. I'd drive down the driveway, and they'd chase the car. It tears your heart out."

Mark and Katherine married in late 1990, with both going to work six or seven days a week in their mobile clinic, the "vet van."

It was that custody arrangement that was in force in March 1992 when the children made their first "outcries," the term to describe a child's reports of abuse.

In 1990 and 1991, eight-year-old Adam had described seeing his father hug and kiss another man, and said his dad had thrown parties where people would "sniff white powder" and congregate in the bedroom behind locked doors for long periods of time. He told his mother that he had peeked in the windows--which are permanently uncovered in the country home--and saw two men "riding each other horseback," according to court records.

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