Custody of Jovan Belcher and Kassandra Perkins’ Daughter Zoey Is Given to Cousin Sophie Perkins
If you didn’t know, this news came three days ago. Frankly, I am glad the cousin, Sophie Perkins, has custody. Nine-month-old Zoey Michelle Belcher has bonded with her, plus her visitation schedule was in accord with what the court-appointed parenting expert, Carrie Contey, had suggested for the infant. Here is the ruling. Thus it was that Cheryl Shepherd, the mother of Jovan Belcher, lost custody of her granddaughter, but she will be able to see the child occasionally in visits.
Shepherd, 54, of West Babylon, N.Y., had suggested that Zoey spend equal time with the paternal and maternal branches of her family. Perkins, 35, of Pflugerville, Texas, had recommended that she raise the child but allow Zoey specific visitation weeks each year with her paternal relatives. Under her plan, the length of the visits would increase as Zoey grew up.
Wheeler found Perkins’ approach “in close accord” with the recommendations of Carrie Contey, a Texas parenting expert who testified during the three-day guardianship trial last week at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Contey testified that she could not recommend a “50/50” guardianship arrangement. She preferred Zoey having a primary caregiver but making frequent visits to the other side of the family.
A child passed around like a parcel between Texas and New York? And she’s not even one year old? No, I wouldn’t agree with that arrangement, either. Stability is what is needed, no matter that Sophie Perkins would be in effect a single mother, working full-time at her job at Dell Computer, a job that she has held for 13 years.
The custody battle went on for three days, and it certainly turned nasty at points. Baby Zoey is an heiress in diapers; she stands to inherit $3.75 million dollars over her lifetime because her father, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, killed himself and her mother Kassandra last December 1. Whoever won custody of the baby girl also may have won some control of the money as well, though an independent conservator has been appointed to maintain the estate. On top of it all, the wounds from Belcher’s murder suicide are still fresh. Nobody from either side has been free of troubles. Each side was throwing shade on each other.
On Wednesday, Shepherd faced tough questions as to why police came to her home 70 times in 15 years. Many were for domestic disturbances or harassment calls with Shepherd saying the other calls were of a minor nature.
Shepherd said the incidents involved her adult daughters and their ex-boyfriends, not her. She said most, but not all, of the incidents occurred before Zoey’s birth.
She said her son would want her to raise his daughter.
Rebecca Gonzales and Darryl Perkins, Kasandra Perkins’ parents, testified that their daughter would have wanted Sophie Perkins to have custody of her daughter. They said Sophie Perkins is a better option than they are because she is a loving young woman who is a responsible homeowner and has a stable career.
Darryl Perkins was grilled about his drug use. He admitted he had used cocaine, including in the past year. He also said he went to drug rehab some years ago.
Shepherd’s attorney argued that since Darryl Perkins has been in jail for more than one driving-while-intoxicated charge and has drug issues, it wouldn’t be safe for his granddaughter to be around him on a regular basis.
Sophie Perkins’ attorney argued that Shepherd is a smoker and Zoey would face the dangers of second-hand smoke while in her custody. But Shepherd said she does not smoke inside her home.
On Thursday, Perkins described how, shortly after the shootings, she and her sister, Whitney Charles, began to pack Zoey’s bedding, bedroom curtains and other belongings to ship them to Texas. Charles and her husband, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, paid the shipping costs, Perkins said.
“I wanted her (Zoey) to come back to a comfortable place,” Perkins said.
Meanwhile, a cousin went to Perkins’ house to begin to paint a room for Zoey, she said.
Perkins also described her version of a Dec. 2 conversation with Shepherd regarding Zoey’s future. Shepherd testified earlier this week that she believed Zoey was going to Texas only temporarily and that both branches would rear Zoey together.
Perkins didn’t see it that way.
“I told Cheryl that I wanted to bring Zoey back to Texas,” she testified. “Cheryl said that we needed to raise Zoey together. When she said that, I took it to mean me as the primary caregiver with unlimited visitation for family members.
“I have always commented to Cheryl that she was always welcome to come to Texas to visit Zoey whenever she wanted to.”
The little girl was allowed to come to Texas for her mother’s funeral; however, she was not brought back to Mrs. Shepherd’s home in New York. The custody battle was joined from that event, and a temporary guardian was appointed. In the interim, Shepherd and other members of Belcher’s family have been allowed to see the baby.
There was no response to the decision by either camp. The three-day hearing was top heavy with relatives and friends of Sophie Perkins and of Cheryl Shepherd, including an appearance by Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, whose wife Whitney was a sister to Sophie Perkins, and who helped introduce Kassandra Perkins to Jovan Belcher.
Thanks to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, Zoey will receive more than $1 million dollars throughout the course of her life. She’ll receive $108,000 annually over the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and $52,000 each year after that until she turns 18. If she decides to attend college she’ll continue to receive $52,000 a year until she turns 23.
The Kansas City Chief owners, coaches, players and employees have opened up a trust fund which will also care for her.
Commerce Trust Co has been appointed at conservator of Zoey’s estate and will handle her financial matters.
Still, I hope that this child will be in a loving home and environment. Sooner or later, she will find out how she came to be, and why her parents aren’t with her. The fact that her mother’s cousin is in therapy to resolve her bitterness and anger at the murder-suicide, and how to impart these facts to the child in a healthy manner is a step in the right direction. I hope that this is the end of any wrangling over money that really belongs to the child so that she can live a better life, but I don’t think that it is. This could be the opening volley in a much longer battle. The older Zoey becomes, and especially during her teens, the more pressure will be brought to bear on her to share out some of the proceeds for any endeavor, including investing into something questionable and speculative. I hope she also learns how to be independent as attaining some wisdom, because Zoey will need both.
- Zoey Belcher’s trust fund to be managed by third party (kansascity.com)
- Jovan Belcher’s Baby Custody Is Decided After NFL Player’s Murder-Suicide (getmybuzzup.com)
- Good News: Kansas City Chief’s Jovan Belcher’s 9-Month-Old Daughter Appointed Legal Guardian (bossip.com)
- Judge gives cousin custody of Jovan Belcher’s daughter (thegrio.com)
- Jamaal Charles’ Wife’s Sister Awarded Custody Of Zoey Perkins (arrowheadaddict.com)