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In Re Adoption of K.B.D., A Minor v. Vicki S.

December 14, 2012

IN RE ADOPTION OF K.B.D., A MINOR
(AARON B.D. AND JENNIFER D., ) PETITIONERS-APPELLEES,
v.
VICKI S., N/K/A VICKI F., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 COAD 04 Honorable Susan Fox Gillis, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice R. Gordon

JUSTICE R. GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Lampkin and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The instant case arises from respondent Vicki F.'s appeal of the trial court's order terminating her parental rights during a contested adoption proceeding, thereby permitting the adoption of nine-year-old K.B.D. (the child) by petitioners Aaron B.D. and Jennifer D. Vicki claims that the trial court's finding that she was unfit was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 I. Pretrial Procedural History

¶ 4 On January 5, 2010, Aaron and Jennifer filed a petition to adopt the child, who was born on April 20, 2003, to Aaron and Vicki. They stated that they were married and that Aaron and Vicki were never married. They further stated that the child was in the custody of and resided with Aaron and Jennifer. They stated that Aaron had sole custody of the child and consented to his adoption of the child.

¶ 5 They claimed that Vicki demonstrated evidence of her intent to forego her parental rights by failing for a period of more than 12 months to maintain contact with or plan for the future of the child even though she was physically able to do so and further claimed that Vicki failed for a period of more than 12 months to make a good-faith effort to provide a reasonable amount of financial support for the child. They claimed that Vicki had failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility for the welfare of the child and was therefore an unfit person, making her consent to the adoption unnecessary. The petition accordingly requested that Vicki's parental rights be terminated and sought leave to adopt the child.

¶ 6 On January 7, 2010, a guardian ad litem (GAL) was appointed to represent the interests of the child.

¶ 7 On February 16, 2010, Vicki filed a pro se answer and an objection to the petition for adoption,*fn1 requesting an order denying the petition for adoption and an award of permanent custody of the child. The answer included a notarized verification of Vicki's signature, but neither document was verified.

¶ 8 On March 19, 2010, Vicki requested an attorney to be appointed for her based on her low income. The trial court responded by supplying a "298 Petition" for Vicki to complete, advising her that based on the materials she had submitted, it appeared that she would not qualify for appointment of counsel, but that no decision would be made until she had submitted the petition.

The trial court also provided Vicki with the contact information for several low-cost legal service organizations.

¶ 9 On April 26, 2010, the court entered an order giving Aaron and Jennifer leave to file an amended petition by May 17, 2010, giving Vicki until June 14, 2010, to file an answer or otherwise plead, and continuing the matter to June 28, 2010, for a status hearing.

¶ 10 On May 13, 2010, Aaron and Jennifer filed an amended petition to adopt the child, adding depravity as a second ground for finding Vicki unfit. Attached to the amended petition was an order issued by the El Paso County district court in Colorado on April 28, 2006, incorporating the transcript of a "Permanent Order Hearing" before that court on March 15, 2006.

¶ 11 During the hearing, the Colorado court considered a report prepared by Dr. George Nicholos, a clinical and consulting psychologist. To the extent that there were any issues concerning credibility, the court specifically found that the testimony of Dr. Nicholos was more credible than the testimony of Vicki on any matters in which there was a conflict. The court further found that Dr. Nicholos had carefully weighed the effect of his recommendations on the child and that "any parenting time other than what is specifically proposed by Dr. Nichol[o]s would endanger [the child's] physical health and would significantly impair[] [the child's] emotional development." Accordingly, the court ordered that all of the recommendations made by Dr. Nicholos be adopted and incorporated into the court's order. With regard to supervised visitation, the court ordered the parties to develop a "Parenting Time Plan" consistent with Dr. Nicholos' recommendations.

¶ 12 Also attached to the petition were the 13 recommendations made in Dr. Nicholos' report and adopted by the Colorado court. Dr. Nicholos recommended: (1) that Aaron have sole parental and decision-making responsibility for the child and wherever possible should try to communicate with Vicki in order to obtain her opinions concerning the child; (2) that the child live primarily with Aaron in Illinois; (3) that Vicki's parenting time initially be supervised; (4) that the court appoint a child and family investigator or parent coordinator to monitor and facilitate the progress of the case; (5) that Aaron remain in the role of primary parent with sole decision-making responsibility even if Vicki progressed to fully unsupervised contact with the child; (6) that Vicki abide by the decisions and directives made by Aaron concerning the child, including not pressuring or undoing any of Aaron's positions or philosophies with the child; (7) that Vicki immediately begin intensive individual psychotherapy with a therapist experienced in substance abuse and consult with a psychiatrist about the possibility of intervention with mood-stabilizing or antidepressant medication; (8) that Aaron provide Vicki with all significant medical, psychological, school, or social information about the child as reasonably soon as it becomes available; (9) that Aaron agree that under emergency circumstances, Vicki may sign legal releases for medical treatment or to take other necessary measures; (10) that each party promptly notify the other of any changes in addresses or phone numbers; (11) that whenever possible, Aaron and Vicki communicate via email; (12) that neither party discuss any legal matters with the child related to the case or any disputed financial matters; and (13) that telephone access be unlimited for the child between the two households, but that the child never be pressured or coerced into speaking with either parent, and that at the beginning of the parenting plan, Vicki be allowed to call the child no more than twice per week.

¶ 13 On June 21, 2010, Aaron and Jennifer filed a motion to strike Vicki's pleadings and for entry of a judgment order of adoption. The motion stated that Vicki's answer and objection to the petition did not comply with Illinois law since they were not verified and did not include the required filing fee. The motion further stated that the sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado, was unable to serve Vicki with Aaron and Jennifer's amended petition at the address she included on her pleadings. Consequently, Aaron and Jennifer asked that Vicki be held in default and that a judgment order be entered as adoption was in the best interest of the child.

¶ 14 On the same day, the GAL filed a report recommending that the court enter a judgment of adoption as being in the best interests of the child. Also on the same day, the trial court entered an order granting Aaron and Jennifer's motion, striking Vicki's pleadings, entering a default against her, and terminating her parental rights. The trial court entered a separate judgment order of adoption finding Vicki "unfit to have the care, custody and control of the minor on the grounds of abandonment and failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child." The court further ordered that the prayer for adoption be granted as it was in the best welfare and interests of the child.

¶ 15 On July 20, 2010, Vicki, through her attorney, filed a motion to vacate the default and the judgment order of adoption. The motion stated that Vicki had been representing herself, and that she came to court on June 28, 2010. When she arrived at court, she discovered that an order of default had been entered for failure to file proper pleadings; Vicki claimed that she did not understand what default was or that she had filed incorrectly. Vicki further claimed that she had called the clerk of the court and was told that she did not need to appear for a motion set on June 21, 2010. Vicki claimed that she did not receive the order of default until she appeared for trial.

¶ 16 On July 26, 2010, the court vacated the order of default and the judgment order of adoption, and set the matter for a hearing on the motion for default on August 24, 2010.

¶ 17 On July 30, 2010, Vicki filed a motion for leave to file a response to the adoption petition and to copy the court file, which the trial court denied on August 2, 2010, as premature until the court ruled on the motion for default and for entry of a judgment order of adoption.

¶ 18 On August 9, 2010, Vicki filed a motion for leave to file a response to Aaron and Jennifer's motion to strike Vicki's pleadings, which was granted on August 16, 2010. In her response, Vicki admitted that she did not pay the required fee for filing her pleadings, but stated that she had not been aware of the fee and now had an appearance on file and had paid the fee. She claimed that she had planned to represent herself at the July 28, 2010, hearing*fn2 and did not understand that the motion set for June 21, 2010, canceled the hearing set for July 28, so she appeared on July 28 and discovered the judgment order of adoption had been entered on June 21.

¶ 19 Vicki claimed that her pleadings should not be stricken and that a default should not be entered because she suffered from the disabilities of depression and attention deficit disorder (ADD); she claimed that due to these disabilities, she received a disability check from the Veterans' Administration (VA), which has found her to be 80% disabled. Vicki claimed that these disabilities made it difficult for her to understand and process the proceedings. Vicki further claimed that an adoption would not be in the child's best interest since she had been the child's caregiver for the first three years of his life and had maintained regular contact since then. She claimed that since Aaron already had sole custody of the child, "there is no reason for an adoption other than the elimination of the mother from the child's life."

¶ 20 On August 23, 2010, Aaron and Jennifer filed a reply to Vicki's response. They stated that there was never a hearing set for July 28, 2010, but there was a status hearing set for June 28. They claimed that they filed the motion to strike on June 3, 2010,*fn3 and Vicki received notice of the hearing and in fact on June 21, called the court, the office of the GAL, Aaron and Jennifer, and Aaron and Jennifer's attorney, asking for information about " 'the next court date.' "

¶ 21 On August 24, 2010, the trial court denied Aaron and Jennifer's motion to strike and for entry of a judgment order of adoption, instead ordering the matter to proceed to a termination hearing.

¶ 22 On September 30, 2010, Aaron and Jennifer filed a motion, which the GAL joined, seeking an order requiring a mental examination and random drug testing of Vicki. The motion claimed that Vicki had placed her mental health into issue in the case, since her defense against the default was her testimony about disability findings made by the VA and certain drugs she consumes, which she testified explained her prior inconsistent and false testimony under oath.

¶ 23 On November 29, 2010, the trial court entered an order granting Aaron and Jennifer's motion for drug testing and for a psychological evaluation, ordering Vicki to submit to a psychological evaluation to address her alleged ADD and drug use and her ability to parent, and ordering Vicki to submit to random drug testing, to take place in Colorado.

¶ 24 On January 3, 2011, the court entered an order continuing the case "for the execution of a Final and Irrevocable Consent to Adoption by Respondent, Vicki ***." No such consent was ever filed.

¶ 25 On January 18, 2011, Aaron and Jennifer filed a motion to compel Vicki to respond to outstanding discovery and to impose sanctions against her for failure to respond to discovery. On the same day, they also filed a motion for rule to show cause why Vicki should not be held in contempt for failing to complete the psychological examination or comply with the random drug testing ordered by the court.

¶ 26 On February 7, 2011, the trial court entered an order granting Aaron and Jennifer leave to file a second amended petition to adopt; ordering the parties to have no contact with each other; and ordering the parties not to be given information as to current residences or places of work as disclosed in any discovery responses given to counsel.

¶ 27 On February 17, 2011, Aaron and Jennifer filed a second amended petition to adopt the child. The second amended petition was identical to the amended petition, except that Aaron and Jennifer were no longer listed as married persons but as single persons; the petition stated that Aaron and Jennifer recently divorced, but would continue to share parenting responsibilities for the child.

¶ 28 On March 22, 2011, Vicki filed a motion to dismiss the second amended petition pursuant to section 2-619(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(d) (West 2010)), claiming that since Aaron and Jennifer were no longer married, the adoption was no longer a "related adoption" and they could not adopt the child since he was not "available for adoption."

¶ 29 On March 28, 2011, Aaron and Jennifer filed an emergency motion seeking court intervention to terminate Vicki's "harassment campaign" against Aaron. The motion claimed that beginning on March 24, 2011, a person named Gordon Hansen began contacting the councilmen and mayor of a city in Illinois*fn4 ; Aaron is also a councilman in the same city. The motion further claimed that Hansen falsely identified himself as a " 'court-appointed investigator' " investigating Aaron's ethics. Hansen "falsely created the impression" that Aaron was the subject of a criminal investigation and indicated that he was a court-appointed investigator as to a family court matter involving Vicki. He asked the councilmen whether they knew of any criminal activity involving Aaron, knew of his business activities, or knew of any police reports. The motion claimed that this conduct was in violation of the February 7, 2011, court order barring the parties from contacting each other.

¶ 30 The motion claimed that after learning of Hansen's conduct, Aaron contacted him at the telephone number he had provided the councilmen. Hansen told him that he had been retained by Vicki's attorney. The motion asked for the court to hold Vicki and her counsel in contempt, to strike Vicki's pleadings, to hold Vicki in default, and to enter the judgment order of adoption.

¶ 31 On April 4, 2011, the trial court entered an order denying Aaron and Jennifer's request for a contempt order, taking their request for an order striking Vicki's pleadings under consideration, and denying Vicki's motion to dismiss the second amended petition for adoption.

¶ 32 On April 25, 2011, the trial court entered an order in which it, inter alia, denied Aaron and Jennifer's motion to strike Vicki's pleadings.

¶ 33 On May 26, 2011, the GAL filed an emergency motion for sanctions, claiming that Vicki had recently "unleashed a series of offensive and intrusive comments" on social media Web sites in violation of the court's orders.

¶ 34 On May 26, 2011, the trial court entered a temporary restraining order against Vicki, barring her from contacting Aaron or his businesses by any means, including through social media Web sites; the restraining order also applied to contacting Aaron's business associates, employees, and Web sites.

¶ 35 On June 6, 2011, the court denied Aaron and Jennifer's motion for a contempt order and ordered that Vicki have no contact by any means, directly or indirectly, with Aaron or Jennifer, the child, Aaron's businesses, or Aaron's family, friends, employees, associates, vendors, and business sources. The court further ordered Vicki to immediately remove all Internet postings concerning herself, the child, or Aaron.

¶ 36 Subsequently, the trial court again entered a number of orders for Vicki to immediately remove all references to Aaron, Jennifer, or the child from the Internet and to request members of her friends and family to do the same.

¶ 37 On February 14, 2012, the court entered an order on Aaron and Jennifer's motion in limine, barring Vicki from, inter alia: (1) attacking the custody order entered by the El Paso County district court in Colorado or from attempting to relitigate the case that produced the custody order; and (2) attacking the parental evaluation and recommendations of Dr. Nicholos, which were adopted and incorporated into the custody order entered on March 15, 2006.

¶ 38 On March 1, 2012, the GAL filed a motion for sanctions against Vicki for her failure to remove materials referencing the child from the Internet, despite at least four prior court orders to do so; the GAL also noted that at least one of the references to the child was posted after the first court order was entered.

¶ 39 II. Trial

¶ 40 On March 1, 2012, the parties came before the trial court for trial, which lasted 10 days.

¶ 41 A. Aaron

¶ 42 Aaron testified on his own behalf that he was formerly married to Jennifer and had three children: the child, who was eight; and two children, ages six and three. He further testified that he held three political positions, including a position as councilman of the city in which he resided. He also owned a number of entrepreneurial businesses, most of which he owned outright and some of which he owned as a partner. Aaron testified that despite being divorced, he and Jennifer continued to parent the three children together, constantly communicating and even having family dinners together several times during the week; he testified that during their divorce, they "worked it out between ourselves" and came up with a co-parenting agreement.

¶ 43 Aaron testified that he had been involved in judo and was accepted at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs and met Vicki in early 2001 while living at the OTC. He was 22 or 23 at the time, and had recently graduated from college. While he was at the OTC, he also became employed by an event production company that produced mixed martial arts events, and he competed in some of their events. Additionally, Aaron served as an announcer for the company's oil wrestling events. Aaron testified that there would always be one or two women hired "to make sure that we had a show," and some women would be selected from the crowd, which was predominantly male.

¶ 44 Aaron testified that he first met Vicki at one of the company's events and spoke to her afterwards at the bar. They went back to her home that evening and went on "probably two or three dates and *** that was probably the whole thing of that." Aaron testified that they had a sexual relationship, which began on their second or third date. Aaron testified that during that time, he was immature and it was not uncommon for him to date several people at the same time.

¶ 45 Aaron testified that his sexual relationship with Vicki lasted "[a]t most two weeks" and that he believed that Vicki "liked" him. Aaron testified that Vicki participated in the oil wrestling once, although he never asked her to do so. When he told her that he was no longer interested in "continu[ing] on with hanging out with her," she began visiting the OTC at random hours and placing letters and notes underneath his door; she also began coming to his events and even came to a house that Aaron was house-sitting. Aaron testified that there were times that he needed to ask security at the events to not allow her to enter or to have her removed; Aaron classified her behavior as "a bit scary." A few months after the relationship ended, Aaron left Colorado to move back to Illinois. He learned about 2 1/2 years later, when obtaining an emergency order for custody, that Vicki claimed that he had raped her.

¶ 46 Aaron testified that he was still in Colorado, teaching at a martial arts studio, when Vicki interrupted his class to tell him that she was pregnant and he was the father of the child. He asked her to let him finish his class and they would discuss it. Aaron testified that when Vicki told him she was pregnant, he did not believe her; he thought it was a way for Vicki to attempt to rekindle their physical relationship. He purchased another pregnancy test and asked her to take the test; it was positive. She asked him to go with her to the doctor, which he did, and the doctor confirmed that she was pregnant and conception occurred at approximately the time Aaron and Vicki had their relationship. Aaron and Vicki had a discussion about whether to terminate the pregnancy, and Aaron told Vicki that it was her decision to make. He told her that he would be a supportive father, but that he was not interested in any other kind of relationship with Vicki.

¶ 47 Aaron testified that Vicki asked him several times for money to obtain an abortion. He asked her where she was planning on having the abortion, and he sent a money order made out in the name of the clinic to her. She sent it back to Aaron's parents in Illinois. Vicki then asked for $1,000 for an abortion at Planned Parenthood, which Aaron provided, made out to Planned Parenthood; he testified that Vicki wanted the money order made out to her, which was "never *** going to fly." Aaron did not hear from Vicki until two to three weeks before the child was born, when Aaron was back in Illinois; it was at that time that Aaron learned Vicki was still pregnant.*fn5 When Aaron learned that Vicki was going to give birth, he made plans to visit the child in California, where Vicki was living.

¶ 48 Aaron testified that he did not attend the child's birth because he was not clear on when exactly he would be born, but that the hospital sent him photographs after the birth and he immediately made plans to visit San Francisco; he went to San Francisco less than three weeks after the child was born. After the child was born, Aaron obtained records from the hospital about his birth, which included a medical report. The report mentioned several risk factors involved with the child's birth: "[Vicki] has significant cycle social risk factors, including depression. She has psychiatric hospitalizations in the past. She has an assault charge outstanding in Colorado and no contact at this time with the father of the baby." The report also stated that prenatal care was questionable: "Prenatal began at 25 and [2]7 weeks and was complicated by; 1, history of multidrug overdose; 2, history of psychiatric hospitalizations; 3, late prenatal care; 4, difficult blood draw." The report also included a plan for Vicki upon the child's birth: "1, a social service consult for mother, maternity history of drug overdose and psychiatric problems and poor health condition."

¶ 49 Aaron testified that after the child was born, he wanted to be legally declared the child's birth father and have his name on the child's birth certificate. Vicki had given the child a name that included Aaron's middle name, which was also his father's first name, and his last name. Aaron and Vicki met with Vicki's father, who was an attorney, and tried to come to an agreement as to visitation and child support. Vicki's father drafted an agreement, and Aaron said that he needed his attorney to review it before he signed anything. The agreement was never signed, because Aaron's attorney felt that it was not a fair agreement and needed modification. After Aaron told Vicki that he wanted to redraft parts of the agreement, she informed him that during her pregnancy, she had met a man named Joel S., and that they were moving and were no longer interested in having Aaron as part of the child's life.

¶ 50 Aaron testified that several times, Aaron and Jennifer made plans to visit the child in California; Vicki was initially open to the plans until she discovered Jennifer was planning on coming, at which point she canceled the plans. Aaron testified that Vicki tried to prevent him from having a relationship with the child by refusing contact with him and not being available due to her "nomadic lifestyle" and constant moving.

¶ 51 "[A]while later," Aaron visited the child in Missouri. Aaron testified that he had made arrangements to fly Vicki and the child to Illinois so that he could meet Aaron's family, but Vicki changed the tickets that Aaron had purchased to Missouri and informed Aaron that if he and his family wanted to visit the child, they would need to drive to Missouri, where she was staying with her grandparents. Aaron, his mother, and Jennifer went to Missouri to visit the child, and they had the opportunity to spend several days with him. Aaron believed that, at that time, Vicki had married Joel.

¶ 52 Aaron testified that he began several court cases to establish parentage of the child. He testified that, in relation to a case he had filed in California, he was ordered to submit to a DNA test, which he did. He was required to submit to a DNA test twice more, because Vicki never completed her portion of the testing. Finally, the case was dismissed due to Vicki's failure to cooperate. At that point, he contacted someone who worked at the place where Vicki kept a post office box, and that person told him that her forwarding address was in Hawaii. Aaron discovered that in 2004, Vicki and Joel left California and moved to Hawaii. Aaron testified that when he learned that Vicki had moved to Hawaii, he hired an attorney and attempted to establish parentage there, but was not successful because she was unable to serve Vicki after a number of attempts.

¶ 53 In 2005, Aaron began a "wide net search" for the child, contacting different police departments in areas where Vicki had ever lived to obtain her address. As a result, Aaron obtained a number of police reports and incident reports where Vicki and Joel had domestic disputes.

¶ 54 On Memorial Day weekend of 2005, Vicki contacted Aaron at approximately midnight. She told him that she and the child were at a halfway house or shelter in Missouri and needed to come to Illinois because she had nowhere else to go, and she requested a bus ticket. Aaron immediately contacted the bus terminal and paid for a bus or train ticket and picked them up at the station. When they arrived, the child appeared to be in "okay" condition, and Vicki had 10 to 12 bags. He took them to a hotel near his home and rented them a room. Aaron testified that when the child arrived, the child "had a hard time talking" due to a speech delay and also had significant tooth decay.

¶ 55 On May 30, 2005, Aaron and Vicki signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, which Aaron asked Vicki to sign when she came to Illinois from the shelter. On May 31, Aaron filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County to determine the existence of a parent/child relationship and also included a request for custody.

¶ 56 The same day that Aaron filed the complaint, he and Vicki had a confrontation at a grocery store. Vicki informed Aaron that she and the child only ate organic food, but she had no money and needed food, so Aaron took Vicki and the child to the grocery store. Aaron testified that Vicki picked out items that she would not be able to store in her hotel room, since it did not have a refrigerator, including a gallon of milk, and when Aaron told her so, she turned to the child and showed him the milk, screaming, "do you see what your dad doesn't want to get for you? Do you see this? You're not good enough for your dad to get this for you because he doesn't care about you." Aaron "lost [his] cool" and became extremely upset. He picked up the child and called the police while leaving the grocery store.

¶ 57 Later that day or the next day, Vicki was served with the parentage complaint. Aaron was not present when she was served, but his mother was. After Vicki was served, she contacted her brother, Alan H., who picked her and the child up and drove her back to Colorado. The parentage action was later moved to Colorado.

¶ 58 Aaron testified that a few months later, he traveled to Colorado after being contacted by Vicki's brother Alan. After speaking with Alan, Aaron determined that Vicki was in jail. Aaron spoke to his attorney, who recommended obtaining an emergency order to remove the child, which Aaron did. Once the emergency order was obtained, Aaron, Jennifer, and Aaron's parents drove to Colorado, where they were met by Aaron's attorney, who contacted the police department to attempt to locate the child. The police located the child at Vicki's mother's house, presented her with the emergency order, removed the child, and gave the child to Aaron. Aaron and his family then took the child back to Illinois.*fn6 Aaron testified that immediately upon returning to Illinois, he took the child to a pediatrician to have him examined, and the pediatrician stated that the child had speech delays.

¶ 59 While Aaron was waiting for the police to return with the child, he heard that Vicki had contacted the police and wanted to file a rape charge against Aaron for the encounter that resulted in conception of the child. Upon his return to Illinois, Aaron was contacted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The inspector from DCFS examined the child and told Aaron that there were allegations that Aaron was slicing the child's feet.

¶ 60 Aaron testified that, while driving back from Colorado, he had noticed splinters in the child's feet. Vicki called him, wanting to speak to the child, and Aaron asked her why the child had splinters in his feet; Vicki responded that he had been running on a deck and perhaps got them there. The DCFS report against Aaron was ultimately deemed unfounded. Aaron requested that DCFS save the record of the unfounded report in case it was ever necessary.

¶ 61 At approximately the same time in July 2005, Vicki sought and obtained civil orders of protection against Aaron and her brother Alan. Vicki also accused Aaron of sexually abusing the child, resulting in Aaron being contacted by the police, who determined that the report was unfounded and "blatantly false." DCFS also investigated the matter, finding the report unfounded, and advised Aaron that the reports against him were "probable[] intentionally false reports."

¶ 62 During that time, Aaron was investigating Vicki on his own due to the custody case they were involved in. He contacted all of the hospitals and police departments in the areas he believed Vicki had lived, getting any information that was available; he also performed Internet searches. Aaron testified that he received a number of incident reports involving Vicki. Additionally, as a result of his investigation, he had concerns about drug usage by Vicki. Aaron testified that he knew when he met Vicki that she used marijuana, but he was also sent a videotape by Joel of Vicki and Joel using drugs while the child was present, and he was aware that Vicki's drug testing consistently was positive for marijuana and some form of amphetamine. Aaron further testified that, based on his research, Vicki supported herself by working as an exotic dancer in multiple states; he testified that her work did not concern him because she did not do it in the presence of the child.

¶ 63 Aaron testified that he made a report to Colorado Child Protective Services concerning Vicki and Chris, Vicki's boyfriend, and that the resulting report, completed in October 2005, was inconclusive and stated that there did not appear to be any child protection issues. Aaron testified that he made the complaint based on the child telling him that Chris had hit him.

¶ 64 Aaron testified that when the custody case began, his and Vicki's attorneys negotiated that during the pendency of the proceeding, Aaron would fly to Colorado to pick up the child, return to Illinois with him for 12 days, then fly the child back to Colorado for the child to spend the next 12 days with Vicki.

ΒΆ 65 During Christmastime in 2005, Aaron had a conversation with Vicki in which they were discussing their plans for the holiday. Vicki informed him that she did not believe in Christmas or holidays because they were against her beliefs and she did not want the child to participate in any Christmas activities. Aaron informed Vicki that he had planned to take photographs for Christmas, and when he went to pick up the child for his visit, discovered that Vicki had shaved the child's head "completely to the skin." ...


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