Nelson has learned that an ex-boyfriend will retain custody of her seven-year-old daughter, Kay. An ugly custody battle involving allegations of molestation and mental illness continues.
However, as the two discuss the case with attorney Dana Childress-Jones, Nelson recovers her strength, recognizing that she can’t give up even if the odds seemed stacked against her. “If I do not fight for Kay, who will?” said Nelson.
In May, 2001, Kay was born to Tracie Nelson and ex-boyfriend Billy Dupree (Dupree refused to speak with the Recorder regarding the case). From Kay’s birth Nelson had sole legal custody of her. Although the relationship between Nelson and Dupree ended, Nelson said she understood the importance of a father’s presence in a child’s life and encouraged Dupree to visit Kay.
Family members wanted Nelson to contact child authorities immediately to investigate Dupree, but Nelson said she urged caution, wanting to give Dupree a chance to defend himself and help in discovering if anyone did molest Kay. Nelson took Kay to a therapist, and expressed her concerns to paternity court Judge Alicia Gooden, who suspended Dupree’s overnight visitations. Then, for the first time, Dupree expressed an interest in having custody of Kay.
An employee for the Marion County Prosecutor’s office, who has to remain anonymous, believes Kay’s story is legitimate, but could not take action due to the custody dispute.
In August 2007, following a hearing, Gooden granted custody of Kay to Dupree.
According to court records, Dupree has strongly denied any allegations of abuse, and he and Bacon assert that Nelson is mentally and financially unstable. They also believe that Nelson has coached Kay into saying certain things to bolster her case. Nelson’s attorney, Childress-Jones, requested a change of judge, and Kay’s case was passed to Judge Gary Miller. Nelson alleges that Miller appeared to be fair at first, but after speaking with Gooden and Bacon (Gee whiz Commission members, sounds like ex parte communications to me, against the law), has refused to grant even temporary custody to Nelson, despite the investigation into alleged abuse.
Still, Nelson says she is not surrendering the fight to get Kay back home. She is seeking to move her case to the court of a third judge with no connections to Gooden. She is also seeking removal of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), a representative appointed to serve as a nonbiased guardian of a child in a custody dispute. Nelson says the GAL has not acted in Kay’s best interest.
“I have a divine right, as Kay’s mother, to protect her,” Nelson said. “All I’m trying to do is get her life back to normal and keep her safe.”
Coming in Part 2: A closer look into the case. Note: Kay is not the child’s real name. The Recorder does not publish names of minors involved in pending legal cases.