Compounded anguish

`My son's gone ... and they're trying to take my grandson,' says Claudette Shields.

October 24, 2006|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN REPORTER

When 26-year-old Kevin Shields was shot to death three years ago, Robert and Claudette Shields lost their only son. Now they fear they have lost their only grandson, too.

Today, the Shieldses are planning to give a victim-impact statement in Baltimore Circuit Court as their son's convicted killer is sentenced. They intend to make the court aware not only of their grief over their slain son, but also of the added anguish of being prevented from seeing Jose, their 10-year old grandson, by his mother, who herself had a role in the killing.

"We miss him," says Robert Shields, who is to give the statement in court today. "We love him."

Jose watched as his father was killed July 2003 in an apartment parking lot in Northwest Baltimore.

Jason Beau Moody, 31, was convicted of manslaughter and a weapons charge last month in a trial where Jose was a witness. Moody could be sentenced to up to 30 years today.

Jose's mother, Stephanie Madariaga, 27, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. She and Moody - her boyfriend - fled briefly to the Dominican Republic after the killing. As part of Madariaga's plea deal, she was to receive no jail time, but prosecutors are seeking to have the deal voided because she had "a significant lapse of memory" at Moody's trial.

Madariaga has custody of Jose, and Robert and Claudette Shields say she has forbidden him from visiting them or speaking to them over the phone because of her own involvement in the crime.

Madariaga's attorney, Margaret A. Mead, says the mother cut Jose off from his paternal grandparents "because they were saying disparaging things about her." Mead said they also upset Jose by asking him questions about the killing.

Whatever the reason, it's more painful fallout for the family of a homicide victim.

"My son's gone, and they're trying to take my grandson," Claudette Shields says. "It's like taking one bullet and shooting me in the head, and then another bullet and shooting me in the heart."

The Shieldses, who are in their mid-60s, say they helped raise Jose, frequently baby-sitting him in their Pimlico rowhouse, taking him on vacations and showering him with presents, like an electric guitar and a stuffed dog that still sits on their living room couch.

Jose was friendly with other little boys in the Shieldses' neighborhood and loves to play video games and on his grandparents' computer, they say. Their home is filled with snapshots of him.

Claudette Shields says she cherishes a Mother's Day card from her son and a Valentine's Day card from her grandson. She says it reads: "To the greatest grandmother in the world. I'm so happy you're my grandmother."

After Kevin Shields was killed and Madariaga and Moody left the country for seven weeks, Jose lived with his paternal grandparents. The Shieldses say they worked out the arrangement with social workers and with Jose's maternal grandparents, who live in Owings Mills.

Madariaga and Moody were arrested in September 2003 when they landed at a New Jersey airport. When Madariaga was released on bail, she moved back in with her parents and resumed custody of Jose.

Jose and his paternal grandparents continued to visit regularly until this summer, when Moody's trial was approaching.

That's when, Mead says, "there began to be a lot of problems."

"They were pumping him for information, questioning him," Mead says. Jose would come home crying and had nightmares, Mead says. Madariaga had asked them to stop, but they didn't. So Madariaga stopped allowing them to be around Jose.

"This has been a tragic, tragic case for everybody," Mead says. "Stephanie never wanted to deny them access to Jose."

Robert and Claudette Shields say they never badmouthed Madariaga and only discussed the killing if Jose brought it up.

"I was kind of shy even knowing what to say to him," Robert Shields says.

They say Madariaga cut off contact in an effort to shape Jose's testimony so that both she and Moody could minimize their prison time.

Jose took the stand in Moody's case and answered with a child's honesty: "I was there when my dad was killed. I think you need to ask me some questions because I was, like, a witness there."

Jose said he couldn't remember giving police a taped statement, so the prosecutor did not ask him about the details of what he saw. Instead, the defense attorney agreed to allow the prosecutor to play Jose's taped statement for the jury.

Moody claimed he shot in self-defense, though Kevin Shields was unarmed and, according to testimony, on his cell phone, when he was killed. A city jury convicted Moody of manslaughter and a weapons violation and acquitted him of murder charges. He could be sentenced to 30 years.

Jose's paternal grandparents say the trial, which ended in early September was the last time they saw the boy.

"When I looked at him, he looked down," Robert Shields says. "It was like his heart broke."

But there was a small moment of joy for the grandmother.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Claudette Shields, after she asked permission from Madariaga, gave her grandson a long hug.

She says she saw tears in Jose's eyes, and she knows there were tears streaming from hers.

"I told him, `I love you,' she says. "`We will always love you.'"

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