Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

For the Love of Clare

Posted July 26, 2007

We would all like to think the law is cut and dry.  You break it, you go to prison.  But not all laws are that simple- especially when it comes to family court and issues involving the well-being of children.

This week the legal guardians of a seven-year-old girl came back to court to ask that the child be allowed to visit her mother, a convicted murderer, in prison.  In February the court ruled that it wasn't in the child's best interest to visit her mother, but that the guardians could come back and petition the court to change this agreement.  The guardians say that the child longs to see her mother and has become sad and withdrawn as a result of being denied.  The paternal grandparents oppose the visitation, and  with good reason.  The mother, Ann Miller Kontz, killed their son, Eric Miller, who is also the child's father.

It's an emotional drama unlike any that a family court anywhere in North Carolina has ever seen.  The legal guardians, who happen to be Ann Miller's sister and brother-in-law, have taken Clare Miller into her home and have raised her like one of their own.  They say she is treated and loved no differently than any of their three biological children.  To make their family more whole they have asked that the judge in addition to granting the prison visitation that he would allow them to add their last name to the child's so that she would be Clare Miller Wilson.  Again, the paternal grandparents oppose this move because they want their son's legacy to be preserved in his daughter's name.

The judge has now asked a trauma expert to asses the situation and make a recommendation- a wise choice considering it is almost impossible to detangle the competing interests of the two families who so desperately want what is best for this child.  In their hearts they are both right.  Unlike children who are neglected, this child is in the center of a battle between people who only want more of her.  Unlike children who are abused, this child has experienced nothing but love from both families even during difficult emotional times.

I don't envy either side for the burdens they have experienced in the loss of Eric and the painful knowledge that Ann killed him.  I don't envy them for having to make hard choices for Clare, all the while trying to keep self-interest out and her interest at the heart of the matter.  But I especially don't envy the judge for having to handle such a complicated case.

But when you take away the tragedy and you take away the complexity of the child's situation, what you're left with is a whole lot of people who love this little girl.  I have faith they will work it out.  There's no doubt she has a tough road ahead of her considering where she has been, but with so many people who love her I think she has a fighting chance.


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  • curiousgeorgia Jul 27, 2007

    Perhaps it would be a good thing to let her see her mother at least once as long as she was never left alone with her.
    The poor child may think that she herself has done something wrong somehow and that is why she can't visit her mother.

    Evil as the woman is, maybe it would cause that heart of stone of hers to melt and turn her away from her evilness. That would surely help the little girl in the long run, wouldn't it?

  • MyKidRox Jul 27, 2007

    Sad case, indeed! But the emphasis needs to be placed on Clare.
    She is a 7 year old child...not an infant. She remembers her mother, loves her mother and cannot fully comprehend the reasons behind the lack of one-on-one time with her. Certainly, I agree that her mother is a spiteful, evil, selfish woman who only thought of herself when she murdered her husband so tragically. But this child's needs take center-stage here. Let her have supervised visits with her mother from time to time. Let her ask any questions she needs to ask of her guardians and her grandparents. But do NOT keep this child from her mother. She will resent all involved later. When she can fully comprehend the depth of what her mother did, she will then also be able to determine whether or not she wants to continue a relationship with her. Simple as that. As for changing her name, I disagree. She is a Miller and should remain one. Bless them all!

  • CestLaVie Jul 27, 2007

    I personally don't think the child should have any of momma's perverted, sick influence in her life. Momma should have thought of this before killing Daddy. Momma's lost her rights.

  • Bing Used Jul 27, 2007

    The child wants to see her mother...she doesn't understand everything that has happened and that her mother is responsible for all of it. That woman has hurt everyone in her life. This is a decision I am glad I don't have to make and hopefully never will. It will be a hard decision to make and not let the feelings about the woman get in the way.

  • msncdso Jul 26, 2007

    This is such a terrible situation, there is not good decision. It's certainly understandable that the grandparents are against the visition, but at the same time Clare could just as easily, in her child's mind, grow to resent them for not allowing her to see her mother.

  • ImAmLeJo Jul 26, 2007

    I do have one thought on the matter of changing her last name. They want to preserve the name of her father. I understand that. But what happens when the little girl grows up and is married? Her name will change then more than likely.

  • scal Jul 26, 2007

    People seem to forget that Ann Miller wasn't thinking about the best interest of her daughter, husband, family, or anyone else for that matter. She was thinking of herself and she gave up all rights of freedom when she confessed and was convicted of murder.

    This may sound harsh but they need to keep that child as far away from her Mother as possible and stop all this nonsence. Put the child into the custody of some stable adults who will raise her as their own, in as a normal enviroment as possible, so she can get on with her life. Then whe she's an adult she can decide for herself. No wonder she needs a trama specialist.

  • Legswilson Jul 26, 2007

    You are so right Amanda. The courts will make a decision based on the best interest of the child. Once Clare reaches a certain age, no doubt she will make the decision for herself. Until then, someone has to do it and I don't envy that person at all.

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