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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

Judge explains Mook custody decision

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A man suspected in the disappearance of his ex-wife has been barred "indefinitely" from having any visitation or parenting time with their child.

In a 28-page opinion, Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell gave his reasons why Tyler Mook and his mother, Kim Mook, should have not contact with the girl, who has been the center of a bitter custody dispute since Shelly Mook vanished.

The child claimed in October that her father and paternal grandmother had spoken to her about burning the home of Debra Sikora, her maternal grandmother who lives in Pennsylvania, with the result being that the girl would live with the Mooks afterwards.

Tyler is considered a "person of interest" in the disappearance of Shelly Mook, a Harris Middle School reading teacher last seen in late February 2011.

Counseling suggested

Russell ordered that the Mooks -- Tyler, Kim, and Tyler's father, Jim -- have no communication with the child, directly or indirectly, until further orders from the court.

However, the judge noted that by August enough time will have passed for the Mooks to participate in counseling.

Russell added that any criminal investigation of the alleged arson conspiracy in Pennsylvania will be likely be completed by then.

Shelly Mook had custody of the girl before her disappearance, and Tyler filed for parenting responsibilities.

Sikora was awarded custody after a lengthy trial in August 2011. Tyler was allowed visitation every other weekend, as well as during school breaks and half of the child's summer vacation.

But during that trial, Russell said, multiple witnesses claimed extensive sales of illegal drugs by Tyler, with allegations of thievery, out-of-control anger, domestic violence and "an inability to hold down a job."

Story "consistent"

Russell also extensively referred to dispositions taken from the child, a Pennsylvania social worker, and the girl's counselor about the alleged arson plot, stating that the testimony was "remarkably consistent."

The judge also noted that the many character witnesses who spoke on the Mooks' behalf last week had observed the child and the family in a church setting.

He noted Kim Mook clearly loves her only grandchild but is "in denial about her son's past misconduct," sees her son as a victim and perceives Sikora "as an adversary."

Needs support

Russell stated that "the magnitude of this tragedy cannot be overstated," pointing to the mother's disappearance which investigators say is likely the result of foul play. Not only has the girl lost her mother and has limited time with her father, she has had to move to another state, the judge noted.

"However, the absolutely worst thing to do to this child is to try to involve her in a plot, amateurish as it was, to set her custodial grandmother's home on fire," Russell wrote. "Unfortunately, that is exactly what the proof in this case establishes has happened."

Russell also said that the Mook family "is completely in denial about Tyler Mook's proven history of drug activity and violent behavior," as well as the hostility the family has for Sikora.

Saying that the child has no mother, Russell concluded the girl "needs as much sane and rational family support as she can have, but she never again needs to be solicited to do violence to a family member."