Chiefs Murder-Suicide

Zoey Belcher now living in Texas; custody battle takes shape

Updated: 2013-01-05T12:40:24Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

The struggle over who will care for the daughter of a Chiefs player who committed suicide after killing the girl’s mother is taking shape in Missouri and Texas courts.

And tensions between paternal and maternal grandparents of the 4-month-old daughter of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins have emerged in court filings.

Authorities turned over Zoey Michelle Belcher to Cheryl Shepherd, her paternal grandmother, just after her parents’ deaths on Dec. 1.

But in an email to a Jackson County probate commissioner Thursday, a lawyer for Shepherd disclosed that Zoey is in Texas with her mother’s family.

“Cheryl agreed to temporarily allow the maternal relatives (to) take Zoey to Texas for her mother’s funeral,” wrote lawyer Gretchen M. Gold. “The maternal relatives have now ceased communicating with Cheryl Shepherd and have refused to return her calls or return the child to her care.”

Both families have filed court cases seeking to care for Zoey. Judges in Independence and Fort Worth have scheduled hearings later this month to begin determining where the infant and money to support her will end up.

Zoey was orphaned Dec. 1, when Belcher emptied a .40-caliber handgun into Perkins at the home they shared in the 5400 block of Crysler Avenue. Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the parking lot in front of his coaches and the team’s general manager.

Shepherd, of West Babylon, N.Y., had moved in with the couple about two weeks before the shootings.

On Dec. 14, Shepherd filed a petition with Jackson County probate court, asking that she be appointed Zoey’s guardian and the conservator of her estate.

Money to care for Zoey could come from a trust funded by the Hunt family, Chiefs coaches, players and employees and contributions from the public.

Zoey’s estate or guardian also will receive more than $1 million under terms of the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement.

The girl stands to receive $108,000 annually over the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and then $52,000 each year until age 18. She’ll continue to receive that amount until age 23 if she attends college.

The beneficiary of Belcher, who was in his fourth season, also will receive $600,000 in life insurance, plus $200,000 for each credited season. There is also $100,000 in a retirement account that will go to his beneficiary or estate.

Shepherd also has asked probate court to appoint her the administrator of Belcher’s estate.

The probate commissioner has scheduled a Jan. 11 hearing in Independence to hear both petitions.

In Fort Worth, Zoey’s maternal grandparents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, and other Texas relatives have filed suit asking that they temporarily care for the girl, that her residence be in Tarrant County, Texas, and that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent her best interests.

The maternal litigants also asked for a social study “into the circumstances and condition of the child and of the home of any person requesting” to care for the child.

A Fort Worth judge is scheduled to have his first hearing on that case Jan. 22.

Shepherd’s lawyer said in her email that she is engaging lawyers in Fort Worth to appear at the hearing.

“We intend to fight the matter in Texas on Jan. 22 if that hearing takes place,” Gold wrote.

To contact Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com

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