Judge delays action on who will raise Zoey Belcher

A Jackson County probate commissioner delayed any consideration Friday on who would get custody of Jovan Belcher’s 4-month-old daughter.

The commissioner said, however, that he would appoint a lawyer to represent little Zoey Belcher’s interests in a related matter.

Zoey was orphaned in early December when her father, a Chiefs linebacker, killed her mother, Kasandra Perkins, at their Kansas City home. Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the parking lot in front of his coaches and the team’s general manager.

Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, of West Babylon, N.Y., later filed paperwork in Jackson County Circuit Court asking that she be appointed Zoey’s guardian and the conservator of her estate.

Zoey’s maternal grandparents, who live in Texas, filed a competing custody action in Fort Worth, Texas. A judge there has set a hearing for Jan. 22 to begin working through that case.

The Jackson County actions came at a brief hearing Friday morning in Independence. Shepherd attended but declined comment afterward, as did both of her lawyers.

Zoey now is in Austin, Texas, and is being cared for temporarily by an adult cousin, Sophie Perkins, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday.

Jackson County Probate Commissioner Daniel Wheeler said Friday that because the matter was being contested, he would move the custody issue to a different docket to work through those legal questions.

Taking up the question of whether Shepherd should become the administrator of Belcher’s estate, Wheeler said he did not want to move forward until he had appointed a guardian ad litem to represent Zoey. Such guardians are lawyers appointed to defend the interests of minors in legal actions.

Wheeler instructed Shepherd’s lawyers to work with the guardian ad litem to establish whether she is qualified to administer her son’s estate.

Wheeler set another hearing for Jan. 25 to review progress on that issue.