Phil Heller considered murderer Tony Camacho to be a good father and completely missed signs that he was dangerous. He evaluated the parties in mother Jennie Carter's custody case, "appointed by the courts to conduct a series of interviews and psychological tests with each member of the family – Camacho, 39; his ex-wife, Jennie Carter, 37; and their children, Nelson, 10, and Crystal, 8 – to determine the best custody arrangement in the couple’s impending divorce."
"...when Heller proposed joint custody on the condition that Camacho change his behavior, Camacho wasn’t interested, Heller said. He wanted only full custody. Heller recommended that the courts grant Carter custody."
In other words, Heller ordered sole custody to the mother only because Camacho wasn't deferring to his opinion on the matter. And even when Camacho got obsessive and stalkish after that, Heller did not comprehend the danger, nor order protective measures.
A judge could make a mistake that results in the deaths of two children all by himself without any help from an "expert".
Child custody law to change
Reported by: Jamie Holmes
Photographer: Tom Special
LAKE WORTH, FL -- It was days before Christmas 2006 when Jennie Carter said good-bye to her children.
She had just won full custody of ten year old Nelson and eight year old Crystal. It had been a bitter battle with her ex, Tony Camacho, but she allowed the children to spend time with their father so he could give them their Christmas presents.
Hours later, Carter went home searching for her children.
Outside the Lake Worth home she saw firefighters battling to put out a fire.
Trapped inside were Carter's two children.
"It's hard to be able to imagine what they were going through. If they were calling my name," Carter cries.
Tony Camacho had planned it all. He'd bought gallons of gasoline and had locked all the doors.
The children were trapped when he set the house on fire. When his daughter tried to escape, he stabbed her in the spine, paralyzing her.
"It's a constant reminder when I go inside and I see the room. You see the fan, and what my kids must have gone through."
Now Carter is fighting for other victims of violence. Senator Ted Deutch sponsored a new bill on Jenny's behalf strengthening what happens in custody fights involving parents with a history of domestic or child abuse.
Governor Charlie Crist signed the bill into law this week allowing judges to look at domestic violence history before awarding parental custody.
Now the aggressor will also have supervised visitation.
Carter doesn't know if this new law would have saved her children's lives. Her ex was hell bent on his twisted mission.
Still, perhaps her pain will never be someone else's.
"Not the way you want to have a law named after you," says Holmes.
"No. No," says Carter. "But if it helps other families, I'm all for it."