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Belcher baby’s maternal family presents its case

Updated: 2013-06-13T04:48:57Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

Sophie Perkins believes she is qualified for the position she is seeking.

The Austin, Texas-area woman, who wants to be the guardian of 9-month-old Zoey Michelle Belcher, identified herself as first cousin to Zoey’s mother, Kasandra Perkins, who died Dec. 1 after being shot by former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher.

Belcher then took his own life.

Perkins described herself as “sister, aunt and friend” to her deceased cousin.

“She was more than just my first cousin,” Perkins said of Kasandra, and added that she had agreed to look after Zoey if something ever happened to her mother.

Members of the Texas branch of Zoey’s extended family spent the second day of testimony Wednesday in this week’s guardianship hearing describing why Sophie Perkins should be given custody of the child.

Sophie Perkins and Cheryl Shepherd, mother of Jovan Belcher, both have petitioned to be named guardian. A Jackson County probate commissioner will make the decision.

Perkins described her hopes for Zoey’s future.

“I want to be able to give her a life that her parents were not able to give her,” Perkins said. “I want to give her an opportunity to be her own person.”

Darryl Perkins and Rebecca Gonzalez, parents of Kasandra Perkins, explained why they hoped Sophie Perkins would be named guardian.

“I like her lifestyle; she is stable,” Darryl Perkins said. He added that Perkins, 35, would be better equipped to keep up with the child.

“I’m 52, and I think Sophie would be a better fit,” he said. “I hung out with Zoey a few times, and she gave me a good run for my money.”

Gonzalez, of Forth Worth, echoed that sentiment. She also said Perkins was “focused on her education and her goals.”

“She has a good job and nice home. I believe that is what my daughter wanted.”

Zoey’s Texas relatives, however, also had to answer questions regarding their own backgrounds.

Darryl Perkins, who said that he and a girlfriend had occasionally helped drive Zoey around Texas on various errands, estimated under questioning that he had been convicted of driving while intoxicated twice in the 1990s and also had been arrested “perhaps twice” on cocaine-related offenses.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing Perkins continued to ask Shepherd whether she could remember details from almost 30 police calls to her West Babylon, N.Y., address from 1998 through 2008.

Shepherd said she could not recall specific details from many of the reports but described some of them as incidents involving her daughters’ boyfriends.

Mark Styles, a Kansas City lawyer representing Zoey’s interests, said the high number of reports could represent a “possible pattern.” But he added that many of the reports indicated that Shepherd was the person making the complaint.

Mark Roberts, a lawyer representing Sophie Perkins, asked Shepherd about some of her siblings who have criminal convictions.

“Do you think all of these people would be a good influence on Zoey?” he asked.

“Everybody? No,” Shepherd said.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, testified how her daughter had felt uneasy when she visited Cheryl Shepherd’s home in West Babylon.

“She didn’t like all of the activity, the amount of people coming in and out of the home; she didn’t like the smoking,” Gonzalez said. “She said she had to shower in her sandals because the bathroom was messy.”

Gonzalez also described how her daughter had been upset after a visit to a financial counselor when Jovan Belcher discussed plans for his estate.

“She was very upset, frustrated, because Jovan didn’t stand up to his mother,” she said.

On Wednesday, Shepherd said she received approximately $1.2 million from an NFL life insurance policy following her son’s death.

She remembered her son naming her as the primary beneficiary and added that she had learned that Kasandra Perkins had been named as a secondary beneficiary last year, before the Dec. 1 shootings.

Members of the Shepherd family, meanwhile, testified how they remembered seeing no reluctance from Sophie Perkins concerning a plan apparently agreed to on Dec. 2, the day after the shootings.

Angel Belcher Gaymon, who is the former football player’s sister, said Perkins appeared to agree with the plan that would allow Zoey to be taken to Texas for her mother’s funeral and then be brought to New York about a month later.

In fact, Gaymon said, Perkins brought Zoey to her brother’s wake on Dec. 11. She and other relatives, however, were disappointed that Zoey was present only for about 45 minutes. In recent months, Zoey has been in the care of Perkins.

Shepherd described a reunion she had with the baby Tuesday night at her Kansas City hotel. Perkins, Shepherd said, had agreed to allow Zoey to spend the night with her.

When asked how Zoey responded to her, Shepherd said, “She was like this!” and held her arms wide, as if in welcome.

Testimony is scheduled to continue at 8 a.m. Thursday.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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