August 20, 2013

Waterville mom lost custody fight for 2 kids she allegedly abducted

'For reasons unfathomable to the court,' BethMarie Retamozzo, 34, 'would rather have [her boyfriend] in her life than to reunite with her children,' judge wrote in Aug. 8 order

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A Fairfield woman charged with abducting her children during a supervised visit last week had lost an ongoing battle recently to regain custody of the two children, court documents show.

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BethMarie Retamozzo protests against the state Department of Health and Human Services in Skowhegan on Aug. 31, 2012. Retamozzo, accused of abducting her children during a supervised visit on Thursday and captured in South Carolina on Saturday, was most recently judged unable to care for her children on Aug. 8 by probate Judge John Alsop, who wrote, "A child is at risk when his or her parent fails to recognize danger, denies obvious facts, lies to the court appointed guardian and is also willing to lie in court."

Staff file photo by David Leaming

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Joel and Joslyn Retamozzo

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Aug. 8 court order on state guardianship of Joel and Joslyn Retamozzo (PDF)

BethMarie Retamozzo, 34, had been fighting since May 2011 for custody of the children, Joslyn and Joel Retamozzo, whose guardianship she voluntarily gave to her mother in 2009 when Retamozzo went into the military.

Since then, the courts have questioned her ability to care for the children, and her attempts to regain custody have been "long and ongoing," according to her lawyer, Ernie Hilton.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said Monday he believed the children's grandparents, Pamela and Kevin Taylor, of Fairfield, had traveled to South Carolina to retrieve the children from the South Carolina Department of Social Services, where they have been held since Saturday. A spokesperson for the department said Monday that the children were no longer in custody there.

When Joslyn Retamozzo, 7, and her brother Joel, 6, disappeared Thursday, police said they were concerned about the children's safety but would not say why.

Hilton said he could not disclose the name of the supervisor present at the visit in which Retamozzo disappeared with the children, and police also have declined to give the name of the supervisor. However, court documents lists Jen Dore, Retamozzo's landlord, as the only supervisor the court had approved.

The most recent decision in the custody case for the two children, which was handled by Somerset County probate court on Aug. 8, allowed Retamozzo to develop a list of acceptable supervisors that were required to also be approved by the court or a court-appointed lawyer to represent the interest of the children.

Visits were allowed to include overnight visits at Retamozzo's home or a supervisor's home.

The court order, issued by probate judge John Alsop after a June 27 hearing, concluded that the children's grandparents would continue to hold guardianship of the children. Retamozzo had been seeking full custody of the children, but Alsop decided against allowing that.

"A child is at risk when his or her parent fails to recognize danger, denies obvious facts, lies to the court appointed guardian and is also willing to lie in court," Alsop wrote.

Alsop wrote that Retamozzo lacked credibility when testifying and had given false statements to authorities. Court records also show that she made statements about wanting to kill herself and her children and inappropriately touching her 6-year-old son.

In addition, court records show that Retamozzo has a protection order against her boyfriend, Sanders Svenson. In one incident described in court documents, Svenson is reported to have hit Joslyn with a belt and to have exposed himself to the 7-year-old girl.

Alsop wrote that he did not believe Retamozzo's explanations regarding Svenson's appearance with her in certain locations. The court order bars Svenson from being present during any visits with the children.

"For reasons unfathomable to the court, she would rather have Sven in her life than to reunite with her children," the probate judge wrote.

One week after that court decision, one of those visits didn't go as planned. On Thursday, Retamozzo and the children never showed up at the park where they were supposed to meet the supervisor.

Supervision in focus

There are no clear laws for designating a supervisor or for holding supervisors accountable, according to James Burke, a law professor at the University of Maine School of Law.

The Department of Health and Human Services gets involved in probate court cases only if the court orders it to do so, department spokesman John Martins said. He said the department was not involved in the supervision of visits in this case. Court records show that the department is involved in other aspects of the case, such as providing counseling services.

(Continued on page 2)

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BethMarie Retamozzo

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