Wiggins confirmed that Jeffrey Shipman might be suicidal. He said the department had no indication either way as to whether he might hurt Deonna.
A bitter battle for a sweet child
Luba said Deonna is a typical 3-year-old.
"She's a really very happy kid," she said. "She's outgoing and friendly, not shy at all. She is bilingual -- she speaks English and Ukrainian. She likes to dance and go to the playground and play with other kids. She likes her 'Barney' tapes. She's just a very normal, happy kid."
Since the Shipmans divorced, Deonna has had regular visitation with her father. The visitation was uneventful, Luba said, until June 3.
"She revealed some things about what was going on at her father's," she said. "I called Child Protective Services and they started an investigation."
CPS investigated the matter and decided the accusation was unfounded; by law, the agency does not discuss unfounded accusations. But Luba thinks the reason it was unfounded was because her daughter would not repeat the allegations to the CPS worker.
"The system is overworked," she said. "They don't know how to really get through and make it clear to a 4-year-old. There are so many holes."
The next step, Luba said, was to have Deonna evaluated by a psychiatric professional.
First, however, Luba filed a petition with Onondaga County Family Court to modify the existing custody order and provide for supervised visits between Deonna and her father. Jeffrey Shipman filed a counter-petition asking for sole custody of the girl. At the family's last court appearance, Jeffrey told Luba, "If I can't have her, no one will."
"I took it lightly," she said. "I thought he was just angry."
At that appearance, the judge refused to grant either request. Visitation was to go on as scheduled. Luba said she risked losing custody of her daughter if she failed to comply with the existing order, so she sent her daughter off on July 11.