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In Re Marriage of Thompson



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Coles County, the Hon. James R. Watson, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 27, 1983.

An order was entered in the circuit court of Coles County on May 6, 1981, dissolving the marriage of Kathryn Mae Thompson to John Delance Thompson. Kathryn Thompson appealed certain portions of the order and also asserted that the court should have deferred jurisdiction to a trial court in the State of Michigan. In her appeal Kathryn contended that the award of custody was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, the division of property was erroneous, the court erred in sustaining the objection to her offer of proof of petitioner's reputation, and the trial court erred in refusing to allow her to reopen her case.

The appellate court found that (a) the circuit court of Coles County acted properly in refusing to defer jurisdiction to a trial court in the State of Michigan; (b) the award of permanent custody to John Delance Thompson was not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence or a breach of discretion; (c) there was no error in the division of property except for an apparent inadvertent omission of $371 that was due Kathryn Mae Thompson; (d) the trial court properly sustained the objection to the respondent's offer of proof of petitioner's reputation; and (e) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to reopen the case. 100 Ill. App.3d 1203 (Rule 23 order).

John and Kathryn Thompson were married on November 16, 1973, in Pontiac, Michigan. Thereafter, John Thompson took a position with McBride's Express in Decatur, Illinois. John and Kathryn were living in Decatur on April 18, 1977, when their only child, Daniel, was born. In August of 1977, when Daniel was approximately four months old, the family moved to Lerna, Illinois, where John accepted a position with the H & F Trucking Company.

On November 30, 1979, John told Kathryn that he had to leave town on business, when in fact he intended to spend the night in Collinsville, Illinois, with a female business associate. Kathryn was aware of what actually occurred and on December 1, 1979, she left Lerna with Daniel and left a note indicating that she was returning to her parents' home because her father was ill.

John constantly called to inquire about Kathryn and Daniel. Kathryn at first denied there were any marital problems, and she attempted to conceal her whereabouts and the whereabouts of the child.

On December 7, 1979, John filed a petition in the circuit court of Coles County for dissolution of marriage and for temporary custody of the child. In the petition it was alleged that the child had medical problems and it was in the best interest of Daniel that custody be awarded to the father. The petition was allowed, and an order was entered on December 7, 1979, granting temporary custody to the father.

John continued to call on a regular basis, trying to contact his wife or her parents, in order to determine the condition and whereabouts of his son. On December 10, 1979, John retained the services of an investigative agency.

Following a short stay at her parents' home Kathryn moved with Daniel to a home for battered women in Saginaw, Michigan. On December 12, 1979, Kathryn filed for and was granted temporary custody of her son in the circuit court for Saginaw County in the State of Michigan.

On December 30, 1979, the investigator John had hired notified John that he had located Kathryn and Daniel. John arranged to fly to Michigan, with the court order in hand, to obtain physical custody of his son. John forcibly abducted his son from Kathryn on a street in Saginaw, Michigan, placed Daniel in the detective's car and proceeded to the investigator's home. At that time he called the Saginaw police department as well as Kathryn's attorney in Michigan to notify them of the situation. John denies that he knew then that there was a court order giving custody of Danny to Kathryn. The investigator indicated that his employees had attempted to discover if there was a court proceeding pending concerning custody, but that they had failed to discover anything.

The investigator, Robert Swartwood, testified as to Danny's physical condition at the time the child was picked up in Saginaw.

According to Mr. Swartwood, Danny was without mittens, his cheeks were windburned, he had a cold with a deep cough, he had a small bruise under one eye, and that eye was constantly tearing. The investigator's wife, who was present when Danny was found, testified that she also examined Danny at the time and found chapped lips, tearing in one eye, and a runny nose.

After John took Danny from Kathryn, he traveled back to the family home in Lerna, Illinois. Upon arriving back in Lerna, John took Danny to see a doctor on three successive days; antibiotics and eardrops were prescribed. According to John, Danny's right ear was inflamed, his left ear was full of wax, and when spoken to by his father he had trouble hearing him. Further ear surgery was required in March of 1980.

Following the father's and son's arrival back in Lerna, John went back to work for H & F Trucking Company. He and Danny continued to live in the same home in Lerna that had been the marital residence.

In January of 1980, John began seeing a woman by the name of Betty Coffman. Ms. Coffman and John saw each other regularly for the next five months, with Ms. Coffman frequently spending weekends at John's home. During two of those months John also had a cousin by the name of Kenneth Dolson living in the house. Ms. Coffman testified that during her weekend visits she slept with John, and that she took the same care of Danny that she took with her own two children. Ms. Coffman indicated that Danny always had the sniffles, coughed frequently and had ear trouble. She further testified that she would change his diapers, cook his meals, and change and wash his clothes. Ms. Coffman testified on cross-examination that John was a good, loving father who looked after the medical and other needs of his child. She also testified that John and she talked on several occasions prior to the custody hearing and on one such occasion, according to Ms. Coffman, John reminded her that "I [John] have some pictures and don't forget there is a custody hearing coming up." Ms. Coffman indicated that the pictures John was referring to were nude pictures of Ms. Coffman that John had taken when they were seeing one another.

Ms. Coffman also testified that John came to her house in West Terre Haute, Indiana, one evening and that she would not open the door. John said he wanted to talk with her. She would not talk to him because she was afraid of him. John said that he would be back and that she had not seen the last of him. Ms. Coffman swore out a warrant for John's arrest which is still pending; John did not return. ...

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