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.

Most of these things he reported within days after they allegedly happened.
Katherine Andrews contacted Child Protective Services, but says she was told it wasn't a situation the agency would investigate because the kids weren't being abused themselves.

In the spring of 1992, however, Adam accused his father directly, making his outcry first to a teacher at his Denton school.

Andrews, who had possession of the kids for spring break, took them to a local psychologist, Dr. Leon Peek. He testified later that Andrews was "very much afraid that her behavior might be misconstrued, that it might be thought that she was doing this just to start that [custody] war up again."

He told her to follow CPS' advice, and called the agency as he is required to do by law when abuse allegations surface.

A caseworker, in turn, suggested that Andrews contact the Denton County Sheriff's Department. She also contacted a second psychologist who has considerable experience in the field, William Tedford, a tenured faculty member at SMU.

With some minor variations from interview to interview, the kids told of how they'd witnessed various adult sex acts and drug use in the DuMontier household, and had been fondled by their father or made to watch him masturbate. In his interview with detective Danny Brown, who chomped on a cigar as he interviewed Adam in his gun-filled office, the then-9-year-old boy told how he saw his father and "his lawyer without any clothes on...one on top of the other in the bedroom."

He added to his statement that his father at times made him get into his father's bed, where his father would "jiggle his own penis." Adam said his father told him not to reveal what was going on in the house, and told Adam when he found out about his outcries, "You really owe, owe me an apology...He said I was lying."

Adam had repeated some of the same abuse details in a statement he wrote out to child abuse investigators: "He use to play with my weaner [sic] when I was three and four...When I was little he would hit my mom and try to dround [sic] her in the sink."

Less precisely, Katie told Detective Brown that her father had made her get in bed with him. "He touches in the wrong places...like my bottom," she said.

The kids peppered almost every account with pleas that they wanted to live with their mom.

The accusations lacked corroborating witnesses or physical evidence, and they gained little momentum.

Linda McIntosh, a state child abuse investigator, looked into the children's complaints over nine days in March and closed the case. She marked the report "unable to determine," meaning there was not enough information to decide if the accusations were true.

What no doubt helped dissuade investigators from believing the children was a videotape one of their counselors had made shortly after the divorce trial in 1990. Acting on a hunch that Andrews might bring complaints of abuse against her ex-husband given the particularly nasty divorce, the counselor made a "baseline" videotape of the kids in 1990. Both said nobody had ever touched them inappropriately.

Some of the things they said in their outcries--by the children's recollections of years and times--would have had to have happened before the tape was made.

A Denton County prosecutor presented the sexual abuse case on April 7 to a grand jury, which eventually declined to bring criminal charges against DuMontier.

A day earlier, Katherine Andrews received an even bigger setback--one that one of her many attorneys says "set the table" for what was to come.

The setting was the first hearing on an emergency court order that Andrews had obtained in late March from state District Judge John Narsutis. Sheltering the kids from DuMontier, the order gave Andrews temporary custody while the abuse charges were sorted out. It came with a fresh custody suit in which Katherine Andrews asked the court to give her sole custody of the kids.

Loveless, the lawyer whom Adam accused of having sex with his father, had already filed a motion asking Narsutis to recuse himself from the case. Loveless argued that the judge had heard Mark Andrews' divorce case, posing a possible conflict of interest, but other observers believe it was Narsutis' open admiration of Katherine's looks at previous hearings and the fact that he granted the emergency order that concerned Loveless more.

When Judge Narsutis complied with Loveless' request, the case went to Robert Wright, a retired district judge in Fort Worth who spent a lot of time as a visiting judge in the Denton courthouse.

At the hearing, Brown, the sheriff's detective, took the stand and told the court he thought the kids' claims were believable. "They were precise in what they stated to me...Yes, I would say they are [truthful]," he said.

Katherine Andrews then took the stand, and under questioning from Loveless, she recounted the children's accusations and said they were concerned about their father retaliating against them. "They are fearful of going back to their dad," she said.

Then, in the moment of highest tension, she told Loveless that Adam had accused him of having sex with her ex-husband.

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