Belcher hearing is about salvaging good childhood from tragedy

Updated: 2013-06-17T05:02:37Z


The Kansas City Star

Little Zoey Belcher deserves the best childhood possible.

So far she’s had the worst, orphaned in December when her NFL linebacker father shot her mother to death and then committed suicide.

Those who argue that last week’s custody trial is about the money are wrong.

Neither side is vying for guardianship of the 9-month-old solely because she arrives with a hefty bank account. Yes, the wealth that is attached to this baby because of her father’s career as a Kansas City Chief does influence. The normal financial struggles of parenting will not be an issue.

But whoever gains custody will not have a spigot of money to cha-ching for personal whim, because the estate will be handled by a third party.

So the decision is who has the maturity to put Zoey ahead of their connection to her: Team Jovan Belcher or Team Kasandra Perkins.

The father’s New York-based family is represented via the claim of Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, and Perkins’ Texas clan through Sophie Perkins, a first cousin.

Probate Commissioner Daniel Wheeler wisely offered one last chance for the two families to work this out without a decree from the bench. Although that is unlikely — the parties wound up in court, after all.

Neither family stands out as the clear “best” choice. Both have pluses and minuses. Zoey needs all of them united in her best interest.

She’ll never form her own memories of either parent. Their touch, their voice, any loving embrace Belcher and Perkins would surely have given their only daughter.

She’s a blank slate in that regard.

Zoey will rely on what is told to her, the memories and interpretations of family members and their friends. It’s critical that whoever gains custody is emotionally mature enough to handle that responsibility honestly and appropriately.

Her upbringing cannot be about avenging the image of either parent, about painting one the martyr, the other the saint. Her father was a man sick and violent enough to kill the mother of his child. Her mother was confused enough to have had a child by such a man.

Which is the interesting thing about the hours of testimony last week. Family backgrounds, the influences that led her parents to choose each other, weren’t really discussed.

The testimony wasn’t about that, or the money. It’s more intangible, molding the mind of a child.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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