Drunken 911 call at issue in custody case prompted by murder-suicide in Otter Tail County
FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- A Battle Lake couple raising their 2-year-old granddaughter who was orphaned in a murder-suicide want to restrict visitation by her maternal grandmother after an "extremely concerning" 911 call.
Darrin and Catherine Cox have custody of the 2-year-old, Emma, who was left behind after her father -- Darrin and Catherine's 17-year-old son, Dylan -- fatally shot the mother of his child on March 21, 2011, before turning the gun on himself.
The Coxes won primary custody of Emma last year after a bitter court battle with maternal grandmother Bobbi Teeple, mother of Tabitha Belmonte, who was 16 years old and living with the Coxes when she was killed in the shooting.
In a hearing in Otter Tail County District Court on Wednesday, Judge Wally Senyk heard arguments about the recent 911 call in which Teeple told a dispatcher, "I think we have a suicide attempt here, and she has a gun." Affidavits indicate that a night of drinking fueled the domestic dispute and 911 call. Emma was not there at the time.
"We have been terrified since we learned of it, and we just want to keep Emma safe," Catherine Cox said.
"What has to happen to have enough red flags for the courts to do something?" an attorney for the Coxes argued. "Do we have to wait for something unspeakable to happen, and someone comes home in a body bag? We are playing with fire here."
Under the initial custody order issued Dec. 31, Teeple may have daytime visitation for one weekend each month until Emma turns 3 years old. After that, Teeple may have overnight visitation for one weekend a month, but only if she completes a chemical use assessment and follows the recommendations for education or treatment and aftercare, Senyk ordered.
Teeple also must submit to hair follicle tests four times a year with consistent negative results for methamphetamine, Senyk ordered. During the custody trial last summer, Teeple's history of meth use was raised on many instances.
Though Teeple was not at the hearing, her attorney argued that the visitation rules shouldn't be revisited and that the drinking was a "misunderstanding" that did not have a "direct impact on Emma."
Senyk didn't make a ruling immediately and may call for another hearing to hear more facts.
Kevin Wallevand is a reporter for WDAY News.