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A Legacy of Pain - The fight for custody
Written by Editor   
Monday, 28 September 2009 11:32
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A Legacy of Pain
She deserved better
The fight for custody
Finally home
The rebellion
Whitnei's murder
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The fight for custody

"Whitnei's family life wasn't well at all," explained Mike Dubois, the adopted brother of the 26-year-old homicide victim.

Whitnei was only six months old when her mother, Louella, abandoned her and her two older siblings, Cody and Taylor.

Mike's parents, Elery and Dorothy Dubois of Jennings, learned through a friend about the children's plight and offered to temporarily care for the baby, while Whitnei's older siblings were placed in foster homes. "Temporary" eventually turned into Whitnei's second birthday, and by that time, the Dubois family was madly in love with their wide-eyed little girl. The fact that she wasn't blood-related never mattered.

And then suddenly, it was the only thing that mattered in court.

"One day, out of the blue, her mother popped back into town," Mike further explained. "She told my dad that she wanted Whitnei back. Social Services didn't want to give her back to her biological mother, but Whitnei's mother dated an ex-cop from Jennings who knew the judge personally. He ruled that all three children be returned to their mother, despite her drug and alcohol problem."

Mike's eye welled up with tears as he remembered the moment Whitnei was ripped from his family's arms for the very first time.

"That day destroyed us all," Mike whispered. "She was ours for two years. She was our baby. When her mother came to get her, Whitnei was terrified. She didn't know who her mother was. She was screaming, hollering, crying … My parents broke down watching her … Whitnei just kept flapping her hands at them, begging for them to take her back. She didn't understand what was happening."

Whitnei left with her biological mother and wasn't seen or heard from again for two years.

Back and forth

"Then one day, the phone rang again," Mike said. "It was Whitnei's mom. She said she was in a bind and needed money. So Mom and Dad got in a car and drove straight to Stephenville, Texas. They wanted to take all three kids…"

Whitnei's mom, however, would only allow the Dubois family to take the baby.

Elery and Dorothy purchased a vehicle for Louella to use, then filled her cabinets with groceries and left behind some cash so that Taylor and Cody would be taken care of properly.

Then, they returned home with 4-year-old Whitnei.

Whitnei's biological father, who was serving life in prison for murdering a police officer, willingly signed over his parental rights to the Dubois family. But without Louella's signature, the Dubois family always understood that they had no legal authority to keep the young girl if the woman changed her mind. They could lose her all over again with a simple phone call.

That phone call came approximately two years later, when Whitnei was six years old.

Louella was living in Nevada at the time, and after sporadic contact with the Dubois family, she wanted Whitnei to visit.

"Dad had a standing agreement with her – he would not keep her from seeing Whitnei," Mike explained. "So from time to time, she would ask us to put Whitnei on a non-stop flight to Nevada and she would keep her for a couple of weeks, then send her back. This would happen once – sometimes twice a year – usually during the summer."

One summer, however, Mike waited at the Dallas airport for Whitnei to return home.

"She never got off the plane," he whispered. "I tried to contact her mother, but I couldn't reach her. She fell off the map. I checked every flight, thinking it was a mistake. But we could find no record of Whitnei ever going to the airport."

Driving all night

Mike's eyes welled up with tears when he relived the phone call he made to his father from the airport that day.

"Daddy went crazy," he said. "He was devastated. Whitnei was my daddy's pride. A father isn't who made you – but who raises you, nurtures you. She was ours for two years, and then she was gone again."

The Dubois family went almost an entire year without knowing what happened to "their daughter," but Louella found herself in another bind. She called the family and invited them for a visit to their new home in Echo Bay, just outside of Las Vegas.

The family drove for 1,700 miles, only stopping for food, gas and restrooms. Elery, excited at the thought of seeing his daughter again, refused to stop for anything else.

"We kept telling him, ‘We need to stop,' and he kept saying, ‘We ain't stopping.' He was so anxious to get to her that he drove all the way – for two days."

When the family finally arrived, Elery was beside himself.

"We get there, and here comes Whitnei," Mike continued. "Her hair was knotted and matted. She was dirty, skinny, wearing rags. She was in pretty bad shape. But she was elated to see us. She kept asking, ‘Am I coming home? Am I coming home?' And all we could tell her was, ‘If your momma lets us take you.'"

Again, the Dubois' attempted to take all three children from their harsh environment, but again, Louella would only let them take Whitnei.

"You have to remember, Mike said, "Taylor was her oldest, so she was her babysitter, her cook and her housekeeper."

The Dubois family returned home with their little girl, but continued to keep their side of the agreement: Whitnei would be allowed to visit.

A couple of years and a couple of visits later, Whitnei once again never returned from a roundtrip flight to Las Vegas.

And the heartbreak for the Dubois family continued …

"Dad always did things the right way, the proper way," said Mike, "but he also knew that if he didn't cooperate, he could lose her for good."

 



 

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