Shipley may not contact her son

Judge forbids letters, visits or calls to child

`Unique' relationship noted

Woman was convicted of the father's murder

May 05, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County woman sentenced to life without parole for orchestrating the shooting death of her husband will not be allowed to have any contact with their 13-month-old son, a judge ruled yesterday.

According to a written order signed by Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., Melissa Baumgardner Shipley is to have no visits with her youngest son, nor any phone calls or letters. Beck's order allows the possibility of contact with the child at a later date.

The decision followed a ruling Friday that granted permanent custody of the child to his paternal grandparents, Brenda and Raymond Shipley of Westminster. Last week, the judge also allowed the boy's name to be changed from Carter Ray Baumgardner to Carter Scott Shipley.

Beck's ruling is the second in two weeks in which a judge has barred the children of Melissa Shipley from visiting her in prison. She has two sons, ages 9 and 12, from a previous marriage. In a hearing last month, Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway barred the two older boys from visiting her in prison but allowed her contact with them through monitored phone calls and letters.

Although Beck acknowledged Galloway's earlier ruling, he wrote yesterday: "The court feels that the facts which led to Ms. Shipley's incarceration make the relationship with Carter Scott Shipley unique."

Melissa Shipley, 33, was five months pregnant when her husband, Scott Shipley, 27, was found fatally shot at a Westminster trucking company Nov. 15, 2002. She was arrested 11 days later and charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Butchie Junior Stemple, 29, of Taneytown confessed to shooting Scott Shipley, and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy. He testified against Melissa Shipley during her two-week trial last summer and said the woman plotted her husband's murder to obtain Scott Shipley's $100,000 life insurance policy.

A jury convicted Melissa Shipley, and in January she was sentenced to consecutive life sentences, including life without the possibility of parole and sent to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup. Her parents, Clifford and Bertha Baumgardner, who had been granted weekend visits with Carter, brought the child to visit their daughter at Carroll County Detention Center and continued those visits with her at Jessup.

At Friday's hearing, the Shipleys expressed dismay and disappointment that their grandson was being exposed to the prison and his mother. They toured the prison last month and saw barbed-wire fences and security guards that they thought would scare their grandson. They expressed satisfaction yesterday with the judge's ruling.

"It was what we were hoping for," Raymond Shipley said. "We're really overjoyed with what Judge Beck did. The judge heard us, I believe, and understood what we were trying to prevent. He's still an innocent boy, and that's the way he needs to stay at this time."

The Baumgardners told Beck at Friday's hearing that they did not realize the visits their daughter was granted with the baby did not extend to the Jessup prison. Melissa Shipley testified last week that she had held, fed and played with her infant son and wanted to be in his life. She said she believes the child knows who she is.

"Even though she said that with two hours a month she'd become his mother, it's not as much time as we're giving him day in and day out," Raymond Shipley said yesterday. "If she gets to see him, she's not punished at all. We didn't do that to her; she did that to herself. Why punish this little boy? I'm not sure she could say she has love for him and kill his father."

Custody of the child was in dispute before he was born.

In December 2002, after she was charged in the killing of her husband, Melissa Shipley signed a consent form transferring future guardianship to her parents, court records show.

Two months later, before the child was born, Brenda and Raymond Shipley asked the court to order a paternity test, court documents show. After Carter's birth March 29 last year, the test showed that Scott Shipley was the father. Raymond and Brenda Shipley then filed for temporary and permanent custody of the baby.

Beck originally granted temporary custody to the Baumgardners, but in May last year he awarded temporary custody to the Shipleys, whom he commended for raising three sons and giving them a solid family foundation. At that time, the judge scolded the Baumgardners for a lack of accountability with respect to their daughter's actions.

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