Jovan Belcher's orphaned child subject of custody fight
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tensions are building in a legal fight between maternal and paternal grandparents over who should get custody of an infant whose father, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, killed her mother before taking his own life.
Four-month-old Zoey Michelle Belcher is with her mother's family in Texas, according to a lawyer for Jovan Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd.
Shepherd, of West Babylon, had moved in with Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, about two weeks before the Dec. 1 shootings and was in the Kansas City home when her son fired several shots into Perkins' body.
After that shooting, Belcher drove a few miles to Arrowhead Stadium, where he spoke with then-head coach Romeo Crennel and then-general manager Scott Pioli before walking behind a car and shooting himself in the head.
Shepherd, Zoey's paternal grandmother, was given custody of the girl soon after her parents' deaths. She filed a petition in Jackson County probate court Dec. 14 asking to be appointed as Zoey's guardian and conservator of her estate, which could be worth millions of dollars, The Kansas City Star reported.
In an email to a probate commissioner, her lawyer, Gretchen M. Gold, disclosed that Zoey was no longer in Shepherd's care.
"Cheryl agreed to temporarily allow the maternal relatives (to) take Zoey to Texas for her mother's funeral," Gold wrote. "The maternal relatives have now ceased communicating with Cheryl Shepherd and have refused to return her calls or return the child to her care."
A probate commissioner has scheduled a Jan. 11 hearing in Independence to hear Shepherd's petition seeking custody of Zoey, and a second petition seeking appointment as administrator of her son's estate.
Zoey's maternal grandparents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, and other Texas relatives have filed a lawsuit seeking temporary custody of the girl, that her residence be in Tarrant County, Texas, and that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent her best interests.
The maternal grandparents also have asked for a social study "into the circumstances and condition of the child and of the home of any person requesting" to care for the child.
A Fort Worth judge is scheduled for a hearing on that case Jan. 22.
Shepherd's lawyer said in her email she is getting lawyers in Fort Worth to appear at the hearing.
"We intend to fight the matter in Texas on Jan. 22 if that hearing takes place," Gold wrote.
Zoey's estate or guardian will receive more than $1 million under terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, including $108,000 annually over the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and $52,000 each year until she turns 18. If she attends college, she can continue to receive that amount until age 23.
Money to care for Zoey also could come from a trust funded by the Hunt family, Chiefs coaches, players and employees, along with contributions from the public.
Also, Belcher's beneficiary will receive $600,000 in life insurance, along with $200,000 for each credited season. Belcher was in his fourth season at the time of his death.
There's also $100,000 in a retirement account that will go to his beneficiary or estate.