Mother seeking custody is called saint, stalker

August 11, 1993|By Orlando Sentinel

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Is Regina Twigg a saint or a stalker?

Sarasota Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan has 60 days to decide whether she is a mother compelled by God and biological longings or a woman driven by maniacal desire to possess Kimberly Mays, 14, at any cost.

In closing arguments yesterday, Judge Dakan heard both views of Ms. Twigg, whose character is at the center of a civil trial to determine whether her parental rights outweigh Kimberly's desire to "divorce" the parents she has never known.

"She is an obsessed stranger stalking Kimberly, stalking her prey with no concern for the feelings or fears of the object of her quest," said George Russ, a Fruitland Park, Fla., attorney representing Kimberly.

Mrs. Twigg's attorney, John Blakely, cited psychological tests that "painted Mrs. Twigg to be a saint." Mr. Blakely argued that the parental rights of Regina Twigg, and her husband, Ernest, were all that mattered in the case.

"Whatever rights Kim might have, your honor, they are subordinate to the rights of Regina and Ernest Twigg," Mr. Blakely said. "They get their rights from God, and that's a higher authority. God gave Ernest and Regina Twigg the right to decide what is best for Kimberly."

Four years ago, genetic tests proved that the Twiggs were Kimberly's biological parents and that she had been switched at birth with a baby girl born to Bob and Barbara Mays in 1978. The daughter the Twiggs took home from the Wauchula, Fla., hospital, Arlena, died of a congenital heart defect in 1988.

Kimberly and the Twiggs began a series of visits in 1990, which ended after Kimberly's grades began to drop and Bob Mays felt the visits were partly to blame. Both sides accuse the other of violating the visitation agreement.

Mr. Blakely suggested that the judge offer Kimberly and Bob Mays a choice: Visit the Twiggs or contend with their pursuit for custody of Kimberly.

"The issue of custody may be the only means the Twiggs have of establishing a meaningful relationship with Kimberly," Mr. Blakely said, calling the threat of custody the judge's "big hammer."

Outside the courtroom, Kimberly was asked how she felt when Mr. Blakely raised the possibility of custody, a proposal that Bob Mays has fought before.

"I was thinking I don't want to live with them," she said in a voice barely above a whisper.

Should Judge Dakan rule against the Twiggs, Mr. Blakely said, they will appeal.

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