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Division of Youth and Family v. T.W

February 8, 2011

DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
T.W., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF J.J.W., A MINOR.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FG-04-101-09. Yvonne Smith Segars, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Justin J. Walker, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted December 1, 2010

Before Judges Cuff, Sapp-Peterson and Fasciale.

T.W. appeals from the Family Part order terminating his parental rights to J.J.W. and granting guardianship of J.J.W. to the Division of Youth and Family Services (Division). We affirm.

J.J.W., born on June 20, 2005, is the biological son of T.W. and the now-deceased K.S. On the weekend of March 21, 2008, T.W.'s niece, A.W., and K.S. traveled to Atlantic City to attend a birthday party. The two women had been friends for approximately three years and spent a lot of time together. A.W. was familiar with K.S.'s relationship with her uncle, and K.S. had expressed to A.W. her fear of T.W. During a conversation the two women had on March 25, K.S. told A.W. that she had found knives hidden throughout her apartment and a large landscaping rock wrapped in a sheet in one of her closets. On that same day, T.W. told A.W. that K.S. was "gonna make [him] kill her" because he suspected that K.S. was unfaithful. K.S. told A.W. that she planned to change the locks to her apartment the next day. However, when A.W. attempted to reach K.S. the next day, K.S. did not answer her phone, did not respond to knocks on her door, and did not show up for work. Thus, A.W. became fearful for K.S.'s safety and contacted police.

Police gained access to the apartment and found K.S. dead, lying face-up in a pool of blood in the foyer of her apartment with J.J.W. seated next to her, patting her head and stroking her hair. Police immediately removed J.J.W. from the scene and brought him to A.W.

J.J.W. initially would not go to A.W. He appeared very distraught and his diaper was very wet. He hysterically screamed and repeatedly stated to police, "[T.W.] hit my face, [T.W.] hit my face," and "fuck you bitches, fuck you up." J.J.W. also stated that T.W. struck his mom in the face. He moved his closed fist "forward and backwards" several times as if he was stabbing someone. J.J.W. was later taken to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office where he reportedly told child abuse investigators that T.W. had punched his "mommy" in the face and that his "mommy" had said bad words. He demonstrated to the investigators T.W.'s actions by slapping an investigator in the face and saying "shut up bitch," and "what are you going to do, bitch[.]" Also using a doll to demonstrate what happened, J.J.W. threw the doll across the room, knocked over the chairs, and stated "shut the fuck up, bitch."

On March 27, the Division filed a verified complaint and order to show cause (OTSC) against T.W. alleging abuse and neglect as to J.J.W. The following day, the court entered an order placing J.J.W. with his maternal grandmother, D.S., where he has remained throughout the guardianship proceedings. Defendant was subsequently apprehended and charged with the murder of K.S. and was awaiting trial at the time the guardianship trial occurred.*fn1

On February 10, 2009, the Division filed its guardianship complaint seeking termination of T.W.'s parental rights. Trial on the complaint commenced on August 10 and concluded on August 11. One month later, the court issued a written opinion terminating T.W.'s rights to J.J.W. and entered an order enforcing its written opinion on September 21.

On appeal T.W. raises the following points for our consideration:

POINT I

THE EVIDENTIARY FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT DO NOT SUPPORT A LEGAL FINDING THAT ALL FOUR PRONGS UNDER N.J.S.A. ...


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