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In re Termination of Parental Rights To KCS

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 1, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: KCS and MRH, minor children.
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Petitioner). CHASTITY LEANN GILLEN, f/k/a CHASTITY LEANN STRONG, Appellant (Respondent),

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Abigail E. Fournier, Steiner Law, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Donna D. Domonkos, Domonkos Law Office, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Domonkos.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Shawnna M. Lamb, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Lamb.

          Representing Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State Public Defender; Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program, A division of the Office of the State Public Defender, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Appearance by Mr. Hockman.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          BOOMGAARDEN, JUSTICE

         [¶1] Chastity Leann Gillen (Mother), appeals the district court's order terminating her parental rights to her children, MRH and KCS. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mother's issues are consolidated as:

Whether there was clear and convincing evidence to support the jury's finding that Mother's parental rights should be terminated.

         FACTS

         [¶3] The State filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights on May 6, 2016.[1] A four-day jury trial began on October 17, 2017. At that time, MRH was five and a half years old and had been in foster care for 62 months. KCS was four and a half years old and had been in foster care for 55 months. The juvenile proceedings in this case-two neglect cases involving MRH and a neglect case involving KCS-began much earlier in MRH's and KCS's lives.

         [¶4] When MRH was born, concerns with Mother's alcohol and cannabis use, as well as Mother's and Father's turbulent relationship, caused the Department of Family Services (DFS) to open an assessment case to monitor the family. DFS hoped to prevent any need to take MRH into protective custody. DFS's early efforts proved unsuccessful when, after Cheyenne police responded to a welfare request and found MRH unattended in a house where Mother and several other adults were severely intoxicated, DFS took six-week-old MRH into temporary protective custody. Following a shelter care hearing, the court placed MRH in the State's legal custody, but returned physical custody to Mother on the condition there be no alcohol or sex offenders in the home. MRH returned to foster care a few months later after Mother left MRH with a babysitter and went to Father's house to consume alcohol. Shortly thereafter, the State dismissed this neglect action, and Mother regained custody of MRH.

         [¶5] DFS again took MRH into protective custody a few weeks later, when police responded to a call and found Mother near a Cheyenne park with a head injury, intoxicated, and alleging she had been attacked. She claimed someone stole MRH. Police found MRH with a friend of Mother who had asked Mother to leave the baby with her out of concern Mother was too intoxicated to take care of the child. In addition to arresting Mother for filing a false police report, the State charged Mother with ...


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