ANNAPOLIS – Charles Hicks stabbed his wife, Nancy Klotz, 34 times while their 2-year-old son watched in their South Baltimore home in 1996.
The convicted murderer has been waging a legal battle with his in-laws since then to keep them from adopting his two boys.
“We’ve cared for the boys this long, and we want to adopt them because we don’t want them to be passed around and put into foster homes,” said a teary-eyed Terri Lewis.
But when she and her husband, Franklin, filed to adopt Ryan, now 4, and Brandon, 2, she said Hicks’ response was, “You can take care of these kids until I get out, but I’m still their daddy.”
“I feel that I’m getting prosecuted more than the man that killed my sister,” Franklin Lewis told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Tuesday. “The judge ordered me to see a therapist because that murderer said I was crazy.”
The Lewises were testifying in support of a bill that they hope will prevent cases like theirs.
The bill, with a few exceptions, would prohibit a court from awarding custody of a child or visitation to a parent who has been convicted of first- or second-degree murder or manslaughter of the other parent.
It would also restrict the conditions under which a court can allow supervised visitation in such cases.
“Whose rights are more important, the child’s or the parents’?” asked Sen. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Terri Lewis said that, “Right now, he (Hicks) has all the rights.”
“He gets to testify during hearings and we don’t. We can’t even take the children on vacation without the court’s permission. If so, we could be charge with kidnapping,” she said. “It’s almost like the law is on his side.”
Hicks pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 36 years in prison. With probation, he could be released in 18 years.
The adoption case has been in and out of courts, Terri Lewis said. Hicks will not give up his parental rights.
“Anyone can be a daddy, but not everyone is fit to parent a child,” she said. “By the time Hicks get out of jail the children will be grown.”
Sen. George W. Della, D-Baltimore, said that both the Lewises and the children had to get legal representation for the custody case, and the children are still undergoing psychological counseling.
“They’ve lived this horror,” said Della, another bill co- sponsor. “They have been befuddled by the current system.”
The Lewises said the children are doing fine. But they said things would have been better for both them and the boys if there had been a law to protect the children from their father.
The bill would apply only to individuals convicted on or after Oct. 1, 1998.
“It can’t help us, but it will keep others from what seems like a never-ending bad dream,” Terri Lewis said.