KSLA Investigates: A Shreveport mother's fight to get her child back
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It's something most parents can't imagine; one of your children taken, without your permission. Even worse, not being able to get your child back.
Melissa Robinson's daughter was taken two years ago from her school by a couple who are not at all related to the child.
Despite countless court hearings and hundreds of pages of paperwork, Robinson has not been able to get her daughter back but she's on a mission to change that.
"How do I be calm about a situation like this? You don't be calm," said Robinson.
The Shreveport mom and her little girl, 9-year-old Jewel'lissa, are caught in the middle of an unusual custody fight. It's a complicated legal battle with a paper trail of court documents ping-ponging between courtrooms in Caddo Parish and Dallas County, Texas.
"I've reached my breaking point, I'm broken," said Robinson.
Robinson says when she arrived to pick up her 6-year-old daughter Jewel'lissa from Southern Hills Elementary School on April 9, 2013, she was gone.
"My heart is beating because I'm like 'who has my child,'" said Robinson.
Robinson says the Caddo Parish School Board told her the girl left with a couple from Dallas, Texas.
Robinson is adamant believing her daughter was kidnapped.
"Here it is, I have a daughter that is missing and we know where she is," said Robinson.
Robinson says school administrators told her the couple had paperwork alleging Jewel'lissa's parents released the girl, turning over custody to them.
"I am mom to this baby," said Disirie Lewis.
Lewis is the woman who admits taking Jewel'lissa out of school that day. We traveled to Texas where she and Jewel'lissa now live. Robinson says she is past acquaintances with Lewis.
It's here is where the fight over the little girl gets into a tangled web of confusion.
Lewis says she has all the guardianship paperwork granting her custody of Jewel'lissa.
Our KSLA News 12 investigation found the signed notary seal on Disirie's documents was stolen paperwork a Texas judge signed off on.
Lewis claims she had no idea the person who notarized her paperwork did so with a stolen stamp.
I didn't steal it, I did not know the notary I utilized was stolen. I did not know that at all. That was no malicious intent," said Lewis.
We tracked down Stephanie Prather the notary whose seal was stolen.
"There is no possible way, it doesn't match the way I do things," said Stephanie Prather.
Prather has testified under oath in Texas that she did not notarize Disiri's paperwork.
She told us she attempted to testify in Louisiana, but says a Caddo Parish judge denied her testimony.
In addition to the stolen stamp, Robinson denies ever signing the Release of Guardianship paperwork that Lewis presented in a Texas courtroom.
"I didn't sign that paperwork, the signature is not even like my signature," said Robinson.
Al Myles, Jewel'lissa's father, also says his signature was forged.
"Both of us saying we didn't sign it, what am I going to sign my baby over for, all my rights, does that make sense?" said Myles.
Whether it makes sense or not on April 8, 2013, Dallas County, Texas Judge Tena Callahan signed off on Lewis' documents. One day later, Jewel'lissa was removed from her Shreveport school and has never been back.
Robinson says she has appeared before Judge Callahan many times, attempting to present newly discovered evidence showing fraud but each time, court records show the judge deemed her "not credible."
There was a Child Protective Services case opened in 2011 and 2013 on Robinson, but those were closed because nothing was ever found to prove that she was unfit to keep her children.
"We have a child involved in this and if it ultimately becomes, an issue of child custody versus, kidnapping who knows but what we do know there is a parent alleging that her child has been taken," Cpl. Marcus Hines.
Among the hundreds of documents Robinson has on file in this case is the police report she filed with Shreveport Police Department in 2013 alleging her daughter was kidnapped.
Still to this day, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office has never filed charges.
Robinson's attorney Joey Hendrix calls this legal fight a "miscarriage of justice" that comes down to "jurisdictional warfare."
"We have a birth certificate, we know this child is hers, we know this child was taken out of Caddo Parish schools. It's exactly what the uniform child custody jurisdictional order was passed for," said Hendrix.
Hendrix says neither Louisiana nor Texas courts will intervene with each other.
Since Lewis' court order was signed in Texas, Judge Tena Callahan has jurisdiction.
That's despite Robinson's documentation Jewel'lissa's birth certificate, school and dental records show her daughter was born and lived in Louisiana all her life until she was taken to Texas at 6-years-old.
"This 9-year-old was 13 months when I got her and I am what she knows as security," said Lewis.
We've reached out to Judge Callahan to ask her about her rulings in this controversial case, but she declined our request for an interview citing the case is still active.
"I've been practicing law 28 years and I've never seen anything quite like this," said Hendrix.
For Jewel'lissa's brother and sisters, it means heartbreak and a fight they don't understand.
"Stop crying, I told you, I'm going to get her back if it's the last thing I do," said Robinson.
While Melissa fights to get her daughter back, she is also fighting warrants in Texas for interfering with child custody. According to Robinson, she's facing two years in jail for that.
We have also learned the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office has launched a new investigation into the guardianship paperwork Lewis presented. With that new information, Robinson and her attorney filed an emergency custody order here in Louisiana, but were told once again to take it back to Texas.
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