IN THE INTEREST OF B.C., Minor Child, H.C., Guardian, Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Stephen A.
Owen, District Associate Judge.
guardian appeals the district court's dismissal of his
petition to terminate a mother's parental rights under
Iowa Code chapter 600A (2018).
T.S. Greer of Cartwright Druker & Ryden, Marshalltown,
Pettigrew of Pettigrew Law Firm, P.C., Ankeny, for appellee.
by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ, but decided by
Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
guardian of B.C., appeals the district court's dismissal
of his petition for termination of the parental rights of
B.C.'s mother, Candace, under Iowa Code chapter 600A
(2018), upon its conclusion termination would not be in the
child's best interests. He argues the court's
"best-interests determination was premised on an
inaccurate account of the record and on an erroneous
application of the law to the unique facts of this
Background Facts and Proceedings
our de novo review of the record, we make the following
factual findings. Jesse and Candace were a married couple.
Their marriage produced two children, B.C. and
On October 21, 2016, Candace shot and killed Jesse while he
slept. B.C. and M.C. were in the next room at the time.
Candace initially claimed it was an accident but ultimately
confessed otherwise. She was arrested. The children went to
live with their paternal grandfather, Mark, and his wife,
LaRae. Initially, the children visited Candace in jail.
Candace also kept in contact with the children by phone and
December, Mark and LaRae were appointed as guardians of B.C.
and M.C. B.C. has not had contact with Candace in person or
over the phone since January 2017, shortly after the
guardians were appointed. Around this time, Candace continued
to make attempts to contact B.C. by phone, but B.C. ignored
her calls and shortly thereafter got a new cell phone number,
which no one provided to Candace. Candace discontinued her
attempts to call B.C. in March. Candace continued to send
B.C. written correspondence through August, but her letters
were not answered or returned.
July, a jury found Candace guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
In August, Candace was sentenced to an indeterminate term of
incarceration not to exceed ten years. Candace was eligible
for parole at the time of the termination trial, and her
tentative discharge date is in May 2021. B.C. will reach the
age of majority in November 2021. At the time of sentencing,
B.C. and M.C. requested no-contact orders be entered; the
sentencing court denied their request. However, in September
2017, a detective with the Ames Police Department sent a
letter to Candace stating the following:
I am writing on behalf of your children, [M.C.] and [B.C.].
They have asked me to inform you that they do not want any
contact from you or your family in any form, which includes
but is not limited to: face-to-face contact, written
communication via letter, email, or text message, any phone
contact, any contact via a social media platform, or any
other form of communication or 3rd party contact. If you do
contact them, you could face a criminal charge.
detective sent similar letters to several of the
children's maternal relatives. As a result of this
letter, Candace discontinued her efforts at contacting the
children. She was also unable to contact Mark and LaRae, as
they are registered victims of her crime. While in prison,
Candace has participated in seven classes relative to
domestic violence, emotional support, and her behavior. She
regularly attends a book club and church.
In April 2018, Mark filed a petition to terminate
Candace's parental rights to B.C. for abandonment under
Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b). Thereafter, Candace
reinitiated contact with the children, discovering after
receiving notice of the petition that she could not be
prevented by law enforcement from contacting her children.
Trial was held in July 2018. The guardian ...