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LETTER TO GOV. BUSH


April 26,2005

State of Florida
Executive Office of the Governor
The Capital
Tallahassee, Florida

Dear Governor Bush:

Thank you for responding to my letter through the Florida Department of Children and Family Services.  I received a letter from Mike Watkins, District Administrator from District 7; however, I live in Port St. Lucie, Florida which happens to be in district 15.In the letter, Mr. Watkins stated that DCF does not have jurisdiction over criminal matters or how they are being handled through the State Attorney’s office. Assuming that Mr. Watkins is familiar with my case, my question is how can DCF look out for the best interest of the children in Florida without being directly involved in a case that directly impacts the welfare of my children?

The criminal trial of Edward Munao resulted in the defendant, Edward Munao, being convicted of child abuse and solicitation to commit aggravated battery; however, jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the charge of solicitation to commit second degree murder.  In lieu of this decision, The State of Florida has no further plans for a new trial on the charge of solicitation to commit second degree murder.  Chief Assistant State Attorney, Tom Bakkedahl went on to state to reporters “There’s no need to retry this… This was a just verdict… we respect the jury’s verdict.”

As a mother, I am far more concerned with the negative repercussions the verdict has on my child than the defendant.  The real crime has never been addressed.   Who will help me deal with the trauma to which my son has been exposed?  How am I alone able to ease the fear and pain that my son experiences on a daily basis. The state does not want to hear about my son’s emotional concerns and fears, but they are the first to label him as an emotionally troubled child.  I do not disagree with the label, but I do disagree with the State’s apathetic response to my questions and pleas for intervention.  Did anyone ever stop to ask why my son experiences emotional problems, and, perhaps more importantly, their source?  It stands to reason that my son is labeled as a violent and emotionally disturbed child as a result of his father’s criminal behavior.   It has been documented that my son’s Oppositional Defiant Disorder and emotional issues are a direct result of his contact with his father, Edward Munao. The court system labeled my son’s emotional state as a preexisting condition not taking into account that on more than one occasion he had been directed to “kill” his mother. I don’t know of any parents that advise their children to kill.  My son’s actions were predicated upon being used as an unwilling pawn by his father.  His outbursts and actions are the result of being confused severely traumatized. My son did not ask to be used in this manner and therefore can not be held directly accountable for his actions.

The Florida law described in Chapter 39 of the  Florida State Statues should protect children of Florida like my son, but I have yet to see how our state laws are implemented, in particular the law titled  Grounds for Termination.  I am referencing Pursuant to 39.806(1)(c)F.S. ‘the parents have engaged in conduct toward child or toward other children that demonstrates that continuing involvement of the parent or parents in the parent-child relationship threatens the life, safety, well being, or physical, mental, or emotional health of children irrespective of the other provision of services pursuant to 39.806(1)(b).’   How does this law apply to a parent who has been convicted of a criminal act if the Department of Children and Families does not have jurisdiction over criminal matters?  What happens to a child under the age of 16 who is ordered to testify for a criminal case and not protected from attorney interrogation and thereby forced to experience post traumatic stress?  What is the answer?  I am demanding answers as to how these issues will affect me, my children and other women in my situation.

Based upon the events related so far, it is inevitable that, Edward Munao, the father of my children will be reunified with his son.  Munao only has to follow a case plan designed by DCF consisting of  parenting classes, a one time anger management evaluation, a one time psychiatric evaluation, a one time substance abuse evaluation, and provide financial support for the children weekly (in the amount of twenty dollars per child) in order to restore visitation rights with my son.  How does this case plan help Edward Munao ?   How can a one time visitation make up for all that my son has endured?     Clearly it is only a matter of time before the State of Florida realizes that this is an absurd answer to a much bigger issue.  How is a one time evaluation able to reveal an individual’s true intent or allow any healing process to take place?

As a mother, I have concerns with the state’s judicial system.  After the trial, I was told by Chief Assistant Tom Bakkedahl that my case was ‘nothing more than a domestic issue gone too far.  Furthermore,  Bakkedahl stated,  “No other State Attorney’s office in Florida would have taken on this case with these charges and… that I should be happy with what I got”  Based on these statements, what is the Chief State Attorney implying to all women with children that are victims of domestic violence?

I have been battling a system that should protect women and their children from domestic violence. Unfortunately I realize that I simply represent another example of the ever increasing number of cases of domestic violence before the Florida courts.  In 2002, Edward Munao took my son away from me and I filed and emergency petition to return my child in St Lucie County Court.  The emergency motion for return of child was denied by Judge Schack.  My money was mailed back to me and I was told to file a petition for modification seeking the determination of residency, parental responsibility and visitation.  Unfortunately, the Judge and the Port St. Lucie Police Department failed to take into account Florida Statue, Section 742.031(2) which states “custody shall be presumed with the mother.”

In 2003, I filed a petition for an emergency injunction in St. Lucie County Court which I received from Judge Levlin in July 2003 not disclosing why the injunction was placed as requested by Edward Munao.  I then asked the Judge for supervised visitation.  It was denied because Edward Munao stated he could not afford the fee and was not working.  On December 22, 2003  I filed another emergency petition with the court for domestic violence injunction on behalf of my children which got denied by Judge Bryan.  Judge Bryan was given extensive information about my situation and my fears were stated.  The motion was denied.    A hearing was set.   It was not till February 2004 in front of a female judge, Judge Cox in St. Lucie County that I received an injunction on behalf of my children for their safety.  I expressed my concerns to the State Attorney’s office who told me “don’t worry, Edward Munao won’t bother you or your children due to his bond conditions.”  Munao not only violated his injunction but went on to call me the day he was arrested from jail. I was right to assume that bond conditions would not stop Edward Munao from threatening my well-being and that of my children.  The domestic violence injunction for myself and my children as well as Munao’s bond conditions were once again violated in July 2004 which finally led to Munao’s incarceration. It is clear that  domestic violence can not be  deterred by injunctions and bond conditions alone.

It is a sad state where those who abuse animals are dealt with more severely than those who abuse children. The State of Florida will take an animal away from the abuser and criminally prosecute that person.  Furthermore, that person’s rights are terminated and the animal does not return to the guilty party in order to avoid the possibility of further abuse.  What does the State of Florida do for the children that are abused and neglected?   The Department of Children and Families gives the abuser a case plan.  Not just any case plan but one that entitles an individual like Edward Munao to a one time visit for the specific evaluation.  Simply stated, in Florida, animals are protected more than our own children.  In a state which prides itself on the protection of children, animals enjoy more rights.

My son worries about his family everyday.  He worries more about things which are out of his control.  He has little time to worry about anything else..  My son like any little boy wants to see his father.  He wants to find out answers, but the question regarding my son’s safety and emotional well-being remains.  After a one time evaluation will Edward Munao be that loving empathetic parent who will never advise his son to kill his mother?   Children are what they learn.

I am requesting that the concerns of my family and I not be taken lightly.  If the State of Florida wants to separate criminal issues and The Department of Children & Families is a separate jurisdiction how does this affect overall family unity?  Florida needs to evaluate the judicial system as well as the laws that govern our state.  If an individual is convicted in criminal court it should be carried over to The Department of Children & Families.

I appreciate both your time and consideration.  The courtesy of a return response is requested

Sincerely,

Jodi R. Walsh

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