Grandparents fight over custody of Jovan Belcher's child

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The struggle over who will care for the daughter of a Kansas City Chiefs player who committed suicide after killing the girl's mother is taking shape in Missouri and Texas courts.

And tensions between paternal and maternal grandparents of the 4-month-old daughter of linebacker Jovan Belcher, who grew up in West Babylon, and Kasandra Perkins have emerged in court filings.

Authorities turned over Zoey Michelle Belcher to Cheryl Shepherd, her paternal grandmother, just after the Dec. 1 deaths.

But in an email to a Jackson County probate commissioner last week, a lawyer for Shepherd disclosed that Zoey is in Texas with her mother's family.

"Cheryl agreed to temporarily allow the maternal relatives [to] take Zoey to Texas for her mother's funeral," wrote lawyer Gretchen M. Gold. "The maternal relatives have now ceased communicating with Cheryl Shepherd and have refused to return her calls or return the child to her care."

Both families have filed court cases seeking to care for Zoey. Judges in Independence, Mo., and Fort Worth have scheduled hearings later this month to begin determining where the infant and money to support her will end up.

On Dec. 1, Belcher emptied a .40-caliber handgun into Perkins at the home they shared in Kansas City. Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the parking lot in front of his coaches and the team's general manager.

On Dec. 14, Shepherd filed a petition with Jackson County probate court, asking that she be appointed Zoey's guardian and the conservator of her estate.

Money to care for Zoey could come from a trust funded by the owners, coaches, players and employees of the Chiefs and contributions from the public.

Zoey's estate or guardian also will receive more than $1 million under terms of the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement.

The girl stands to receive $108,000 annually the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and then $52,000 each year until age 18. She will continue to receive that amount until age 23 if she attends college.

The beneficiary of Belcher, who was in his fourth season, also will receive $600,000 in life insurance, plus $200,000 for each credited season. There is also $100,000 in a retirement account that will go to his beneficiary or estate.

Shepherd also has asked probate court to appoint her the administrator of Belcher's estate.

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