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Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015

Dad pleads to see daughter

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tyler Mook testified Thursday during a hearing that will determine if he gets to see his daughter again. Mook, a "person of interest" in his ex-wife Shelly's disappearance nearly two years ago, has been barred from having any contact with the child after accusations of an arson plot were made in October.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
Following a day-long hearing, a judge said he will have to study depositions before making a decision whether to allow the ex-husband of a missing Harris Middle School teacher to have any contact with his daughter.

That decision is expected to be released later today.

Last October, Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell ordered that Tyler Mook and his parents have no direct or indirect contact with the child, who has been the focus of a bitter custody dispute since his ex-wife, Shelly Mook, vanished in early 2011.

Affidavits from the child's maternal grandmother, Debra Sikora, and a counselor claimed that the girl said there was talk with Tyler and Kim Mook, the child's paternal grandmother, about burning down Sikora's home in Pennsylvania, with the result being that the girl would then live with her father.

The child's statements were also corroborated by a Pennsylvania DCS worker, court documents have stated.

Good reputation

Authorities have said that Tyler is considered a "person of interest" in the case since his ex-wife's disappearance. Following the hearing, two Bedford County detectives spoke to him privately, but they would not tell the T-G what was discussed.

The detectives had attended and observed the hearing all day, but did not testify.

But throughout Thursday afternoon, the Mooks presented 13 character witnesses from Franklin County who testified on behalf of Tyler and his parents, including Richard Stewart, mayor of that county, who said that the family has a good reputation.

Many of the witnesses are members of the Mooks' church in Decherd.

Death threat?

Sikora, Shelly Mook's mother and primary custodian of her granddaughter, testified about the child's behavior following visits with her father, claiming that she had returned from one visit to Tennessee with matches and, on another trip, a pocket knife.

Eric Burch, attorney for the Mooks, repeatedly objected to Sikora's testimony when asked what the child said, calling it hearsay. He also objected to a number of depositions entered into the record from the child's case worker and counselor in Pennsylvania that quoted her as well.

Sikora testified that the child was angry with her following the visit when she returned with the knife, and wrote on a whiteboard that "I myt kil you that is ol I got to say" when asked to express her feelings. Sikora also took the knife away from the girl. Tyler later testified he had given his daughter the knife as a Christmas gift.

Parting painful

The Pennsylvania woman also claimed that in November she had received an unannounced visit from Phillip Mook, Tyler's brother, and Phillip Simmons, who is married to Tyler's sister. She also stated that a "care package" containing Halloween related gifts were delivered to the child's school from Lee Ann Zimmerman, a friend of the Mooks.

During cross examination, Sikora admitted that the child did miss her father. She also stated during cross examination that the girl would say negative things about her grandmother after she returned from visits to Tennessee, and that the police were after her father.

Testimony was also heard from grandparents Jim and Kim Mook regarding the visitations, who said they have not violated any court order. Jim said that parting from the child is painful and that the girl is always happy to see her father.

He also said he was "offended" at the accusations made about his wife and son, saying he'd call the accusers a liar to their faces. He believed that the child made up the whole story about the alleged arson to be with her father, and is lying to "cover for herself."

He also said he had seen "no proof" of his son's previous criminal behavior, which includes drug sales and lying in court. He said he had never seen him doing those things.

Tearful testimony

Kim wept during similar questioning, especially when remembering the last time they saw their grandchild. She claimed the matches in question may have come from her son's birthday party the child attended, and denied the accusation against her and Tyler.

Tyler said that when his daughter sees him, it's "like she hasn't seen me in 100 years." He testified that he believed his daughter was confused when asked about the arson accusation.

He also testified that he had no idea that his brother would go to Sikora's home unannounced.

Sikora was represented by Jonathan Brown and co-council Kevin Keele.

Shelly Mook was last seen on the afternoon of Feb. 28, 2011, at Tyler's home outside Shelbyville as she dropped off their daughter. Her burned car was found that night near Murfreesboro.

How to help

A $20,000 reward remains in effect for information in the case. Call the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, (931) 684-3232, or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, (800) TBI-FIND.

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