Judge gives father custody of son after mother arrested

URBANA — A Champaign County judge Friday granted temporary custody of a young boy to his father, two days after the boy's mother was arrested for trying to have his father killed.

After a three-hour hearing Friday morning, Judge Arnold Blockman ruled that the child that Louis Thursh and Jennifer Inman have in common should live with Thursh for the time being.

Inman, 30, of Teutopolis, was arrested Wednesday evening in Tuscola on a preliminary charge of solicitation of murder for hire after she allegedly tried to hire someone to kill Thursh, 50, of Champaign.

Permanent custody has never been established, even though a family court case was initiated in Champaign County in January 2013 in an attempt to get Thursh to pay child support for the son who he and Inman acknowledge is his. The boy had lived with Inman primarily, testimony showed.

A Douglas County sheriff's deputy brought Inman, shackled and wearing a striped jail suit, to Blockman's courtroom Friday, where Champaign attorney Jim Martinkus had filed an emergency petition on Thursh's behalf seeking temporary custody of their 8-year-old son.

Inman is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond in the jail in Tuscola but has not been formally charged yet. She told the judge she was trying to get the $50,000 cash she would need to be released. Formal charges are expected next week.

Blockman heard testimony that Thursh had not seen his child since December when he was criminally charged in Champaign County with predatory criminal sexual assault of a child for conduct that allegedly occurred with a girl under the age of 13 in November and December 2012. Those charges were dismissed July 23 by a Champaign County prosecutor who said she did not feel she could prove the allegations.

Much of what Blockman heard Friday from Inman and Thursh related to those charges, their relationship, and Thursh's ability and fitness to care for their son. The couple have never married and besides the one child in common, both have children from other relationships.

Thursh told the judge he is a martial arts instructor and owner of White Tiger Taekwondo Academy in Champaign, while Inman is a stripper at gentlemen's clubs. That's how the two of them met, he said. He denied ever engaging in any inappropriate conduct with the child named as the victim in his now-dismissed criminal case.

His 80-year-old mother, a retired psychiatric nurse and clinical therapist, described her son's relationship with her grandson as good.

Thursh said he and Inman lived together with their son in Champaign for the first few years of his life before they broke up. After that, he said, he saw his son about three or four days a week and spoke to him almost daily. When he was arrested in December, he was ordered to have no contact with the boy.

In addition to having Thursh and his mother testify, Martinkus presented Blockman with a copy of a DCFS letter dated July 31 saying the department was no longer pursuing an inquiry into a report of suspected child abuse or neglect against Thursh.

Scott Dempsey, the Champaign attorney representing Inman in the family case, asked Thursh several questions regarding allegations in the dismissed criminal case and presented medical records of the alleged victim for the judge to consider.

He had Inman testify that she was the primary caretaker of their son for most of the years since she and Thursh broke up, although she said Thursh frequently kept him overnight when she attended classes at Parkland College to become an emergency medical technician.

She said she took her children and left Champaign after Thursh was released on bond in the now-dismissed criminal case. She said she did that because she feared her son might be at risk with his father.

On cross-examination by Martinkus, Inman admitted that she has had four psychiatric hospitalizations since 1999, with the most recent being in June 2012. After she mentioned "massive head trauma" she sustained in December 2011 and "brain damage" she suffered in June 2012, Blockman pressed her for details of how those injuries happened but she was unable to give specifics. She denied that she was trying to kill herself and said she "accidentally overdosed" on Xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety, in 2011.

Arguing for Thursh to get custody of his son, Martinkus said in sex abuse cases the presumption of innocence that criminal defendants normally have is rare.

"He had a great relationship with his son and someone made an allegation and his whole life was taken from him," Martinkus said, adding that since the criminal case was dismissed, Thursh should be able to have his son.

Dempsey argued that there was strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that Thursh could have committed the acts with which he had been charged, even though the case was dismissed, and that Inman did not want her son living with Thursh.

Blockman said he had doubts about the credibility of the child in the case against Thursh that was dismissed and serious misgivings about Inman, given the accusation that resulted in her arrest.

"Hiring a hit man to kill the other parent is about as far as you can get from not facilitating a relationship with the other parent," the judge said.

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