In re CHRISTOPHER J. et al.
Assigned on Briefs October 2, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Shelby County No. Z2918 Harold W.
Horne, Special Judge
appeals the termination of his parental rights to two
children. The juvenile court found clear and convincing
evidence that Father was criminally convicted of the
intentional and wrongful death of the children's mother
and that termination of parental rights was in the
children's best interest. We conclude that the record
contains clear and convincing evidence to support both
findings. Thus, we affirm the termination of parental rights.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
B. Chastain, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
William R. Bruce, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, John
P., Sherry P., and Diane P.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John W. McClarty and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
21, 2015, John P., Sherry P., and Diane P.
("Petitioners") filed a petition in the Juvenile
Court for Shelby County, Tennessee, to terminate the parental
rights of Christopher J. ("Father") to his two
children, Connor, born January 2005, and Ava, born April
2006. Petitioners sought to terminate Father's parental
rights under Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(7),
which allows termination of parental rights when one parent
"has been convicted of or found civilly liable for the
intentional and wrongful death of the child[ren]'s other
context, we include a brief description of the events that
precipitated this termination proceeding, as recounted by the
Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. "At the time of her
disappearance on April 16, 2013, [Heather P.
("Mother") and Father] had been married for over
eight years and had two children. They had been separated
since January 1, 2013, and had ongoing disputes as to custody
of their children." State v. Jones, No.
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 192146, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Jan. 17, 2017). After the separation, Father began a
"months-long campaign of harassment of [his estranged
wife], which became worse as she proceeded toward divorcing
him and seeking custody of both children." Id.
at *19. After initially denying any knowledge of Mother's
whereabouts, Father told the police the location of her body.
Id. at *11. Father was convicted "of the first
degree premeditated murder of his estranged wife . . . and
the abuse of her corpse, for which he was sentenced,
respectively, to life imprisonment and two years to be served
concurrently." Id. at *1.
appeal, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the
that a reasonable jury could determine that [Father] killed
[Mother] to prevent her from testifying regarding child
custody at the upcoming court hearing, that he strangled her
to death, and that he undertook complicated concealment
efforts to make it appear she had decided to abandon the
children and disappear, later taking her body to a remote
location and setting it ablaze, thus committing the first
degree premeditated murder of the victim and concealment of
Id. at *19.
juvenile court held a termination hearing on July 28, 2016.
Although Father was incarcerated, he was represented by
counsel and participated by telephone. The court also heard
testimony from Diane P., the children's cousin and
primary guardian. At the outset, without objection, the court
took judicial notice of Father's criminal conviction. The
remainder of the hearing focused on the best interest of the
Father was arrested for Mother's murder, the children
were seven and eight years old. Diane P. and her parents
filed a petition for temporary custody of the children, which
was granted. By the time of the hearing, the children had
been living with Diane P. for over three years. Diane P. had
known the children all their lives, and their relationship
had grown even stronger during guardianship. According to
Diane P., the children were safe, happy, and loved. And she
expressed a desire to ...