When Family Court Kills
Bill Sardi is just the latest to have his death attributed, at least partially, to the court process
Bill Sardi’ s friend, Tom LoGiudice, was on the podcast last month, and he argued that the family court process was responsible for Bill's death.
Bill’s divorce was going into its eighth year. Shortly before he died, Bill was forbidden from seeing his son for nine months.
The affair was a constant source of stress and Tom told me it destroyed his immune system.
Michael Volpe Investigates is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
“It was destroying him. He was distracted. He was neglecting his health. He wasn’t eating right. He was constantly in turmoil- in emotional turmoil. He would call me almost every night.” Tom said on the podcast
Sadly, Bill is the latest casualty of this process.
Dominick was living in Chicago. He had a good union job, and his life was moving along when a man named Sam “Blackie” Pesoli entered his life.
Dominick's ex-wife had started dating a member of a prominent Chicago family and her new boyfriend wanted to play a more prominent role in Dominick's life.
Pesoli, who had apparent mob ties, was there to negotiate a deal.
By prominent, I mean removing Dominick from her life. Dominick told me he was offered a bribe and when that didn’t work, Dominick lost his job, got arrested and then barred from seeing his daughter.
By the time I first met him, he was jobless, on an ankle monitor, and barred from all contact with his daughter.
He would die in 2016, possibly from a drug overdose, though, Chicago Police did not do much of an investigation. I talked more about Dominick below.
Chris died on December 29, 2013, after putting a shotgun into his mouth and killing himself.
At the time of his death, he was homeless, jobless, penniless, jailed multiple times, and hadn’t seen his two children since 2010.
He was rendered that way by the family court system in Virginia. His troubles started when he discovered that his former father-in-law, Pete Scamardo, had been involved in a murder for hire.
After Chris confronted his in-laws, Scamardo, who had become a multi-millionaire, financed a divorce battle which took everything from Chris.
Here is part of his suicide note.
The pain from the emotional abuse, psychological abuse, parental alienation and legal abuse has been unbearable. My children and I were abused and when spoke out and no one did anything. No one. Not the attorneys, doctors or Judges. They all recognized the patterns of behavior and the source of conflict and turned a blind eye and then blocked me from bringing in a third party or Guardian Ad Litem to identify the abuse. At any point throughout this case, if the Court had ruled in my favor on any of my motions, the outcome would have been different. At any point, if my ex-wife had shown ANY kind of act of good faith, the outcome would have been different. The facts are that not one of my motions was ever granted by the Court and my ex-wife never once acted in good faith.
Judge Randy Bellows did not like my explanation for the conflict and chose to ignore the evidence contradictory with its views. He did not want to admit that he had been so easily mislead. There is nothing I could do to end the abuse or change the view of the Court. As long as I was the problem, there was no reason to consider an alternate narrative.
I had no power or control in my marriage and I had even less when the divorce began. It was not an accident that I ended up with no visitation with my own children and no ability to monitor their emotional welfare. It was orchestrated by attorneys who were paid not to settle and insisted on litigating every single issue without discussion. It was all done to increase the stress and pressure. Nothing I said mattered. My rights as a parent did not matter. They had the power, control, money and the kids and they were not negotiating. Even after I gave my ex-wife full custody, just to appease her. She insisted on litigating visitation, asking the Judge for “no visitation” even though there was no abuse. She also asked for all the assets in the marriage. I got absolutely nothing and I had to pay her legal bills.
There are currently four laws or proposed laws named after a child killed by an abusive parent: Piqui's Law, Kayden’s Law, Greyson's Law, and Kyra’s Law.
One of the members will be a Nassau County mother, Jacqueline Franchetti, whose 2-year-old daughter Kyra was fatally shot by the child’s dad, Franchetti’s ex-boyfriend, during a weekend visit in 2016.
The mom has been leading the push to require better training of family court forensic evaluators through her organization, called Kyra’s Champions.
She recently pointed out to PIX11 News that her daughter was among 19 children killed in New York State, in a 5-year period, as they were going through the family court system.
Here’s more on the inspiration for that law.
Back in April 2017, Aramazd "Piqui" Andressian Jr. was reported missing after a trip to Disneyland with his father, Aramazd Andressian Sr. The 5-year-old boy's body was found in Santa Barbara County after a roughly two-month search and his father admitted to killing his son.
Since Piqui's horrific death, the boy's mother Ana Estevez has lobbied for a new law that would make it, so a judge would need to be educated about domestic violence issues.
Thomas Valva and James Ryker Biel
Thomas Valva and James Biel were also both killed after being forced to live with an abuser.
Thomas Valva's case received international attention. He was killed after his sadistic father left him in a freezing garage. Thomas Valva had sole custody at the time. The courts and CPS ignored a mountain of abuse allegations put forward by his mother and others.
James Ryker Biel was almost certainly killed by his father on October 31, 2019. His father, Thomas Biel, received sole custody months prior to his son's death, after the court again ignored a mountain of abuse allegations.
A suburban Chicago woman told the Daily Caller that police, the courts, and the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) all ignored numerous warnings about her former partner. Now her two year-old son is dead.
On October 31, 2019, at approximately 9:50PM Kara Witkowski’s two-year-old son was found dead at the home of her ex-boyfriend, Thomas Biel.
“He was found in the master bedroom and his lips were blue,” Witkowski said of her son.
At the time of her son’s death, Witkowski was barred from seeing either of her two children by court order of Judge John Dalton of the Illinois 16th Circuit and upon the recommendation of DCFS. Dalton has not responded to the Daily Caller’s requests for comment, though it is standard procedure not to comment on ongoing cases.
The Center for Judicial Excellence estimates that over eight hundred children have been killed in the US since 2009, who were going through a divorce or custody case.
Keira's Law in Canada
Keira’s Law was named after aa girl who was killed after her father’s abusive behavior was also minimized by the family court in Canada.
Kagan and Viater say Kiera's father's abusive behaviour was minimized by family courts.
"He kidnapped her on at least three occasions. He ran off with her in the face of court orders or parenting schedules in place," said Viater.
Viater said that even in the face of strong warnings that Keira's father's access would be curtailed, his behaviour continued until her death.
Kagan said Keira's Law would give judges in family courts the tools to recognize patterns of domestic violence and its impact on children.
"Right now, there is this bias [in family courts] toward pro-contact at all costs," says Viater.
"It takes one bad parent to destroy a child and a family, and courts don't seem to understand that."
Cassandra was killed by an ex-boyfriend in England. Cassandra he fled Australia with their child, but she was forced to return under Hague Convention.
Cassandra Hasanovic was one of those mothers. She was killed soon after the Australian Judge ordered her out of Australia. She was stabbed to death in front of her mother and her children.
She had escaped to Australia because she was convinced she was going to die at the hands of her abuser. Her cries for help were ignored. The only avenue to debate a return order under the Hague Convention is to show that returning would be intolerable. However, this is a particularly difficult point to prove when Australian Judges do not recognise domestic violence and abuse as intolerable.
Check out the previous articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, and Part 24.
To support more stories like this please consider contributing to the Orange County fundraiser.