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In re Brandon K.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

July 13, 2017

In re BRANDON K., a Minor
v.
S. K., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, In re NATHAN K., a Minor The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
S. K., Respondent-Appellant. In re JUSTIN K., a Minor The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
S. K., Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County, Nos. 14-JA-93, 14-JA-94, 14-JA-95 Honorable William Parkhurst, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Zenoff concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          BURKE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Respondent, S. K., appeals from the Kane County circuit court's order terminating his parental rights to his three minor children, Brandon K., Nathan K., and Justin K. In the underlying criminal action, a jury found respondent guilty of the first-degree murder of the minors' mother (see 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2014)), based on evidence of strangulation. Respondent's direct appeal from the conviction is pending in this court.

         ¶ 2 The trial court found that the State had shown by clear and convincing evidence that respondent was unfit, based on (1) depravity (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(i) (West 2014)); (2) failure to make reasonable progress toward the return of the minors to him during the nine-month period from June 26, 2015, to March 26, 2016 (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(ii) (West 2014)); and (3) failure to make reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that were the basis for the removal of the minors from him during the nine-month period from June 26, 2015, to March 26, 2016 (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2014)). However, the trial court also found that the State did not prove respondent unfit for failing to make reasonable efforts from September 25, 2014, to June 25, 2015 (see 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(m)(i) (West 2014)). The trial court then determined that termination of respondent's parental rights was in the minors' best interests. Respondent does not contest the best-interests determination but argues that the evidence does not support the court's finding of unfitness. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 A. Adjudication and Disposition

         ¶ 5 Brandon was born on September 1, 2004, Nathan was born on April 28, 2007, and Justin was born on December 8, 2008. On July 6, 2014, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a hotline call stating that the minors' mother was found deceased under suspicious circumstances. At the time of their mother's death, the boys were nine, seven, and five years old, respectively.

         ¶ 6 At a temporary-custody hearing on July 21, 2014, respondent stipulated that, on July 11, 2014, he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the mother's death and was incarcerated in the Kane County jail on a $1.5 million bond. The court found that probable cause and urgent and immediate necessity existed for the removal of the minors. DCFS was granted custody, and the minors were placed with their maternal grandfather.

         ¶ 7 On September 24, 2014, the trial court adjudicated the minors dependent. See 705 ILCS 405/2-4(1)(a) (West 2014). On October 27, 2014, respondent was found unfit, unable, and unwilling to care for and protect the minors, and the minors were made wards of the court. The initial goal was for the minors to return home within 12 months. The minors remained in the care of their maternal grandfather.

         ¶ 8 B. Permanency Reviews

         ¶ 9 1. November 2014 through January 2015

         ¶ 10 On January 20, 2015, the trial court conducted a permanency review. The court heard evidence that respondent's criminal trial was scheduled for that spring. Christina Divito, a caseworker from the Youth Service Bureau (YSB), reported that respondent was cooperating with DCFS to the extent that he could while in custody. Divito scheduled an appointment that week for respondent to sign various consent forms and complete an ...


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