On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FG-16-48-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 28, 2010
Before Judges Parrillo and Espinosa.
F.C. is the biological father of S.C. and J.C. and the stepfather of E.C. He appeals from an order that terminated his parental rights as to S.C. and J.C.*fn1 We affirm.
The salient facts relevant to this appeal can be summarized as follows:
F.C. was married to L.C., the mother of the three girls, in April 2001. F.C. and L.C. separated in March 2008. There were various referrals to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) during this time, all of which were determined to be unfounded.
On April 18, 2008, L.C. was found murdered approximately five hundred feet from her apartment. Police followed the trail of blood and hair to the apartment building, where they found E.C., S.C., and J.C. E.C. told them, "daddy killed my mommy.
He chopped her with an ax." At the time of their mother's murder, E.C. was seven years old, S.C. was four years old, and J.C. was less than one year old. A referral was made to DYFS.
In the interviews conducted by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, both E.C. and S.C. described witnessing F.C. stab their mother. All three children were placed in foster care. Both E.C. and S.C. were subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. E.C. expressed her fear that F.C. would harm her. During her evaluation, S.C. was asked if she had any problems and answered, "the problem is my dad killed my mother." Both children received therapy. In June 2008, their maternal grandmother moved from the Dominican Republic into the home of the foster parents to become the primary caretaker for the children.
After a psychological evaluation of the maternal grandmother, Manuel Iser, Psy.D., opined that the maternal grandmother should be awarded custody of the three girls. Because F.C. requested that the children be placed with his parents, who resided in the Dominican Republic, an International Home Study was conducted. F.C.'s parents admitted that F.C.'s request was motivated, in part, by his belief that if the girls were placed with them, his criminal sentence would be lower.
At the time of the guardianship trial, F.C. was awaiting trial for L.C.'s homicide. The court heard testimony from Claret Sanchez, the DYFS caseworker, and Ernesto Perdomo, Ph.D, who had been asked to conduct a psychological evaluation of F.C.
Sanchez testified that the three children are very attached to their grandmother and that both E.C. and S.C. told her that they want to reside with their grandmother. Sanchez stated that it was DYFS's plan for the ...