Posted on May 8, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Thursday, May 9 at 8:47 AM
(KMOV) -- Many News 4 viewers were shocked to learn Tuesday that sex offenders can have custody of children under Missouri Law.
After a News 4 investigation, lawmakers tell us they’ll look to close a potentially dangerous legal loophole.
But sadly, one mom told News 4 it’s too little, too late for her little girl.
The mom says her ex was given joint custody of her kids, even though he’d been convicted of inappropriately touching a child.
Missouri laws do prohibit some kinds of sex offenders from having custody of their kids, but not all sex offenders, not even ones who harmed children.
The laws are written to give judges a lot of discretion, but some say they must be changed to make sure all kids are safe.
“It needs to get changed, before more children are hurt,” said Mullens.
Ashley Mullen herself was just 16 when she married Ryan Simpson. At the time, she didn’t know he is a registered sex offender, convicted of inappropriately touching a 10-year-old girl.
When they divorced, Mullen thought surely he wouldn’t get custody of their two kids. But she was wrong.
“The judge had granted 50/50 custody,” she said.
Because Simpson was charged with only a misdemeanor, sexual misconduct, under Missouri law, he’s not specifically excluded from custody, even though his victim was a child.
Mullen had no choice but to give her kids to their dad every other week, until she noticed something terrifying.
“They were playing weird, the ways children don’t play,” Mullen said.
Simpson wasn’t charged, but a new judge took his custody rights away. Still, Mullen worries it was too, late.
“Do you feel like the system failed to protect your two kids?” asked News 4 Reporter Lauren Trager. “Oh yeah, it did, it did, the system failed to protect my children.”
The judge in Jefferson County was unavailable Wednesday.
Lawmakers we talked to said judges must be scrutinized, but they also said the laws needs to be re-evaluated.
But it won’t happen this session and Mullen wonders whose child might be harmed in the meantime.