“We let those people into our home,” Knightly lamented to Pro Libertate. “We opened the door and greeted them with smiles. We offered them coffee and treated them well. We trusted them. We assured our daughter, `don’t worry — they’re not going to take your baby.’ We assumed that we had rights, that the law meant something, and that the people in the DCYF would have to obey the rules. We’ll never make that mistake again, and we hope other people won’t either.”
Two weeks after Isabella was born, a false child abuse report was filed with the DCYF alleging that Austin and his sister Ally had been molested by their father, who was married to Dot’s other daughter, Holly.When they were notified of the accusation, Dot and Holly immediately took the children to the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center to be examined for evidence of molestation. A comprehensive screening revealed no evidence of abuse of any kind.
Nonetheless, during a preliminary hearing regarding custody of Isabella on September 26, 2005, DCYF official Kate McClure unflinchingly committed perjury by claiming that the medically debunked molestation charge had been “confirmed,” adorning that lie with a critical decorative detail: The purported act has supposedly taken place in the grandparents’ home.
Once that charge had been made by the DCYF, the fate of Dot’s grandchildren was settled, in everything but the details.
A DCYF document entitled “Notice to Accused Parent” explains the ground rules that govern New Hampshire’s “family law” court system: “All Court hearings and records of abuse and neglect cases are confidential. The hearings are not open to the public and only people involved in the case, or invited by the parties and approved by the Court, will be admitted to the Court hearings.” In practice this means that DCYF banishes from such hearings anybody who can speak effectively on behalf of the accused.
A “preliminary hearing” can result in the DCYF being awarded “protective supervision or legal custody” over a child, “which would give DCYF the right to temporarily remove your child[ren] from parental care and custody and determine where and with whom your child[ren] will live,” explains the document.
At no point in the process is it necessary to prove that abuse occurred. Even at an “adjudicatory hearing” — the equivalent of a criminal trial — the standard is a “preponderance of evidence,” rather than a requirement to demonstrate guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But the threshold for a judicial decision to award custody of a child to the DCYF is merely the presentation of “evidence.”
In substantive terms, an anonymous, unsubstantiated accusation of abuse qualifies as “evidence.” In the same fashion, “temporary,” as defined in New Hampshire child abuse cases, is a synonym for “indefinite.” Once a judge has granted custody or protective supervision to the DCYF, the matter is placed beyond judicial remedy, and the child’s fate will be determined by the child-snatcher bureaucracy.
After Candy was charged with “neglecting” Isabella by receiving a morphine drip during a difficult delivery, the grandparents were forbidden to present evidence at either the preliminary or the adjudicatory hearing. On October 3, 2005, the DCYF seized Isabella, who at the time was a little more than one month old. She was never seen again by her grandparents.Candy was allowed brief, sporadic visits until March of 2006.
One particularly provocative aspect of this case involves Candy’s refusal to apply for DCYF-administered welfare benefits. On September 2, 2005 — less than a month after Isabella was born — DCYF employee Melissa Deane tried to persuade Candy to apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Candy refused to do so, pointing out that she and Isabella would be living with the grandparents and wouldn’t need welfare aid — or the invasive government supervision that would come with it.
On September 28 — two days after the preliminary hearing upheld the neglect charge against Candy — Ms. Deane signed the application and filed it herself. A few days later, DCYF kidnapped Isabella from the hospital, eventually arranging for her adoption to another family.
Dot Knightly points out that as long as Isabella remained with Candy, the DCYF would not be able to obtain federal welfare funding in her name. That problem was “solved” by filing an application over the objections of Isabella’s mother, and then stealing her child.
The DCYF then turned its predatory attention to Dot’s other daughter, Holly, and her two children, Austin and Ally.
On January 19, 2006, Holly went to the hospital following a friend’s suicide attempt. While there she was arrested for “belligerent behavior” by a police officer who believed that she was intoxicated. Although she was on various prescription medications (she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder), a test confirmed that there was no alcohol in her system at the time of her arrest. Regardless of that fact, Holly was charged with “child endangerment.”
The arresting officer, Patrolman Josue I. Santia, delivered Holly’s children Austin and Ally to Dot’s home. Santia noted in his report that he and his partner “felt comfortable leaving the children in [the grandparents’] custody.” On the following morning the grandparents were awarded temporary supervisory care over the children while the child endangerment charge was examined. That charge was eventually dropped, but DCYF wasn’t willing to end its pursuit of Holly’s kids.
Darren Hood Tucker, an attorney employed by DCYF, went “judge shopping” and “found another Judge willing to modify the court order” granting temporary custody to the grandparents, Dot Knightly recounted to Pro Libertate. Tucker was able to suborn a judge into ruling that it was inappropriate for Austin and Ally to have contact with Dot’s daughter Candy — whose only “offense” had been to give birth to a child who was later abducted by the DCYF.
“They sent four police officers to our home and took those children away at gunpoint,” Dot recalls. “Poor Austin was literally dragged down the street kicking and screaming as the neighbors looked on.” Shortly after the siblings were placed in a foster home in Merrimack, Austin — who had no previous record of behavioral problems — tried to hang himself.
News of the suicide attempt sent Holly rushing to the hospital, where she was intercepted by DCYF caseworker Anna Salvatore. The caseworker “threatened my daughter Holly by stating that if Holly didn’t sign Austin’s admission to Anna Philbrook Psychiatric Hospital … the Judge would sign a court order terminating Holly’s parental rights,” Dot Knightly relates.
Just days earlier, Austin had been a bright-eyed, friendly, cheerful little boy.
Austin’s disposition and physical appearance changed dramatically after he was seized by armed strangers and forced to take mind-altering drugs.
During the four months that DCYF caseworker Anna Salvatore was on maternity leave (remember that detail; I’ll return to it momentarily), Dot, her husband, and Austin’s mother were able to have one brief phone call with Austin and his attending physician at the Psychiatric Hospital. The doctor told Dot that “after Austin spoke to his family his whole demeanor changed … and he was not the same violent little boy as when he was admitted.” When DCYF Supervisor Tracy Gubbins learned of that phone call, she issued instructions that there would be no further contact between Austin and his grandparents or his mother.
|Austin with his Grandpa.|
Not even this could be considered the crowning act of cruelty inflicted on this long-suffering family by New Hampshire’s child “protection” racket.
By 2008, Dot — who still hoped that she would be permitted to care for her grandchildren — had completed her coursework to be a state-certified foster parent, but was refused a license. She was told by DCYF official Lorraine Bartlett that she would never be permitted to care for Austin out of fear that she would take him off the toxic psychotropic drugs he was forced to take.
Through a steady series of dilatory and obstructionist maneuvers, the DCYF made it impossible for Dot to qualify as a foster parent for her grandchildren. When it was decided that Austin would be adopted by another couple, Dot and her husband were instructed by Bartlett to write a good-bye letter to their grandson in order to bring “closure” to the atrocity. This gesture reminds me a bit of the way that firing squads employed by Ethiopian despot Mengistu Haile Mariam would force families of the victims to pay for the ammunition used to murder their loved ones.
Dot insisted that she would continue her legal efforts to get Austin back.
“Nobody gets their kids back in New Hampshire,” replied the DCYF official. “The government gives us the power to decide how these cases turn out. Everyone who fights us loses.”
(Note: This is a slightly edited version of the original essay; some details have been changed in the interests of clarity.)
In interviews today, Jonathan Irish’s father has made it abundantly clear that he considers his son to be a disturbed and potentially dangerous individual. That view is reportedly shared by other people long acquainted with Mr. Irish. Assuming — for now — that there is merit to that characterization, we’re still left with this question: If the father is the problem, why was themother charged with neglect for the act of having the baby?
This report relies heavily on a significant quantity of documents not available on-line. I intend to archive them and make them available as soon as possible.
Thank you for helping to keep Pro Libertate on-line!