Custody rulings in question
Parents ask why Heflin temporarily got their son
By ROMA KHANNA
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Although thrilled to have their son back, the parents who fought off state Rep. Talmadge Heflin's effort to take custody of the boy want to know why two judges allowed the lawmaker to take him in the first place.
"Right now, we are just so happy that they are back together," lawyer Jolanda Jones said Tuesday, one day after 20-month-old Fidel Odimara Jr. was reunited with his parents. "But at the same time, there were a bunch of sneaky things that happened."
The couple, Jones said, are considering their legal options "and may file something in relation to the judges who approved that order." She did not elaborate.
Heflin, a Houston Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, and his wife, Janice, sought permanent custody of Fidel from Mariam Katamba, his mother, who had lived with them for more than a year.
Katamba said she had been the Heflins' maid before they attempted to take her son. The Heflins said she was a house guest who, along with the boy's father, was an unfit parent.
The Heflins, who said they were worried about the child, sought an emergency order July 27 granting them temporary custody. Family District Judge Linda Motheral, who was presiding over the custody case, was out of town. Her associate judge, David D. Farr, reviewed the Heflins' filings, including allegations of abuse.
Katamba, who is from Uganda, and Fidel Odimara Sr., who is from Nigeria, denied those allegations.
Farr approved the Heflins' motion, and Family District Judge Frank Rynd signed an order. Farr could not sign it because he is an associate judge appointed by Motheral to assist her.
Harris County deputy constables took Fidel Jr. from Katamba the next day and gave him to the Heflins, who had custody of him until Motheral dismissed their case Monday.