Brother of manslaughter victim seeks custody of her children But jailed husband made other plans

July 01, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The brother of a Marriottsville woman who died after falling from a ladder kicked by her husband has filed suit for the permanent guardianship of her two children.

Javier Santiago and his wife, Milagros Santiago, are asking a Howard Circuit Court judge to name them as legal guardians of the son and daughter of the late Gladys Calhoun.

Mrs. Calhoun, 45, was killed on May 13, 1992, after her husband, John Calhoun, kicked a ladder she was standing on outside their Thompson Drive home during an argument. She fell and hit her head on scaffolding.

Calhoun, 52, was sentenced on June 24 to serve 10 years in prison -- with half of the term suspended -- after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the slaying.

The couple's two children -- Laura Calhoun, 12, and Kevin Calhoun, 10 -- had lived with Calhoun until he was sentenced.

"It is in the best interest of the children to be supervised and cared for by their maternal uncle and aunt," the suit says.

The Santiagos, who have two sons, say in the suit they could easily accommodate the Calhoun children in their home in Hanover. The couple say they plan to maintain the children's school studies, friendships and activities.

But Emile Heneault Jr., a Glen Burnie attorney representing Calhoun, said his client prepared for the care of his children while he is in prison -- with the children's consent.

Calhoun sought a court order in April to give temporary custody of his children to Edward and Susan Hereth, a Mount Airy couple he knows through the Assemblies of God Church in Ellicott City, Mr. Heneault said.

The Hereths, who have three children, have added two bedrooms to their house, attend church with the Calhoun children, and participate in counseling sessions with the children, Mr. Heneault said.

"Everybody was positive," the attorney said. "Everybody was for it. It was done for the benefit of the kids."

Mr. Heneault questioned why the Santiagos did not approach Calhoun to discuss arrangements for the children, but instead waited until the day before Calhoun was to be sentenced to seek guardianship.

But the Santiagos say in the suit that Calhoun restricted them from seeing the children and refused to allow them to participate in family activities after his wife's death.

The two families had maintained a close relationship and participated in many activities together until Mrs. Calhoun's death, the suit says.

The case is scheduled for a hearing before Judge Dennis Sweeney on July 23.

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