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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Meth makers denied plea to raise kids

Friday, August 10, 2012

A couple found guilty of cooking meth in their home last year has lost an appeal to regain custody of their five children who were exposed to the poisonous process.

Last year, a trial was held in Bedford County Juvenile Court that terminated the parental rights of Sandra Jean and David Gordon Mortimer, who pleaded guilty earlier in 2011 to producing methamphetamine in their home while their children were present.

Lab found

In March 2010, officers of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force were serving outstanding felony warrants on someone thought to be at the Mortimer home, and discovered a meth lab.

All five of the children were removed from the home and placed in the home of a relative, and the Department of Children Services was notified, however an investigation by DCS determined that the relative's home "was not a suitable placement," also concluding that the children "were dependent and neglected and severely abused."

DCS filed a petition for temporary custody of the children, which was granted, and the Mortimers were ordered to pay child support until a full hearing could be held.

DCS custody

In December 2010, Judge Charles Rich entered an order that the children remain in the custody of DCS, noting that they were "knowingly exposed to abuse that was likely to cause great bodily harm or death," and that DCS was not required to make reasonable efforts to reunite the children with their parents.

A month later, DCS filed a petition for parental termination, stating that the Mortimers had abandoned the children by failing to pay child support and "severely abused" them by cooking meth in the family home.

Rich then terminated the parental rights in August 2011, concluding that it was in the children's best interest. Both parents appealed, with Sandra claiming that refusing any possibility of reunification with their kids was a violation of Tennessee law.

Parents appeal

David asked whether "clear and convincing evidence" supported Rich's ruling that the termination of his parental rights was in the best interest of the children.

Appellate Judge Richard H. Dinkins upheld Rich's ruling, noting that meth had been cooked in the home "no less than 15 times." He also noted the Mortimers had said during the termination hearing and on appeal that they had not made the drug, even though they had pleaded guilty to the charges of doing so.

Both parents had also been sentenced to a little over two years in prison on the meth charges, which permits a court to terminate parental rights under those circumstances.

Total denial

Dinkins also referred to Rich's ruling, who pointed out that the parents "both still completely deny any involvement in the manufacture of methamphetamine in the home," despite statements they made to the Drug Task Force and entering guilty pleas for the drug charges as well as child endangerment.

Rich also stated that it was "difficult to comprehend that" the Mortimers "have continued for over a year to assert that there is no problem to fix." The judge also stated that the children have adjusted well to their new foster family, who wish to adopt them.