In the Child's Best Interest

A legal technicality sent Donnie and DeAnne Fitts to a Houston court seeking to adopt Justin and Jacob Baker - again. Twelve jurors agreed that outcome would be the best for the children. Judge Bill Henderson didn't quite see it that way.

A farm and ranch town of about 3,500 in north-central Texas, Seymour seems far removed from the complexities of urban life. The main streets downtown are still paved with brick, and residents who yearn to shop at big-city grocery stores must head to Wichita Falls, an hour's drive to the northeast. Most of the time, the talk at the Maverick Cafe is about the weather. But as 1995 was giving way to the new year, regulars were engrossed in conversation about two of their neighbors, Donnie and DeAnne Fitts, and what had happened to them down in Houston.

Many folks in Seymour have followed the Fittses' story. They know that the couple had adopted two young brothers from Houston named Justin and Jacob Baker, but then found that the adoption was nullified by a legal technicality. They know that the children's biological parents had sued to regain custody, but that a jury in a Houston court had rejected their claims and paved the way for the Fittses to again adopt four-year-old Justin and three-year-old Jacob. And they know what happened next: that a family court judge in Houston named Bill Henderson effectively overturned the jury's verdict, opening the door for the boy's biological father to obtain visitation rights and, potentially, custody of the boys. Henderson hadn't taken the children from the Fittses, but his ruling had reduced the couple's legal status to that of temporary foster parents of Justin and Jacob.

The citizens of Seymour took Henderson's decision as a personal affront, and the town has rallied behind Donnie and DeAnne. Bank accounts to help the couple defray the costs of their legal fight have been set up at the Farmers National Bank and the First National Bank. Donations are being collected in the Tupperware containers with royal blue lids that can be found at T.J. Stockman's feed store, the Rock Inn Cafe and other places where locals converge. Prayers for the couple are being offered at local churches. Mayor Dick Wirz has gotten involved, writing to the governor to protest Henderson's decision. In another letter published in the local newspaper, The Banner, Wirz said he thought Henderson needed "an examination of competency as a human being."

The Fittses are people of modest means -- Donnie is a game warden and DeAnne is a former administrative assistant with Mary Kay Cosmetics -- and could use the help. They are appealing the judge's decision, which means the case could drag on for two more years. Transcription of the trial for the appeal will cost them $15,000. This past year, they made about ten trips to Houston, totaling two months, for various hearings, depositions, psychological tests and the trial of the biological parents' lawsuit.

Far worse than the cost in time and money, however, is the uncertainty and confusion Henderson's decision has visited on the Fittses' lives. They don't even know exactly what to call the two brown-haired boys, who call them "mama" and "pa." Legally, Justin and Jacob's last name has reverted to "Baker," the name of their biological parents.

The Fittses can't understand why the judge did what he did. Donnie Fitts has been a lawman for 20 years, but he says his faith in the judicial system has been shaken for the first time in his life. Jacob and Justin, he says, "are our whole life."

The irony for the Fittses is that they moved to Seymour three years ago to get away from Fort Worth and the turmoil of big-city life. They wanted a peaceful place to start a family and later retire.

Now, whenever Justin and Jacob hear the word "Houston," they associate it with "mama" and "pa" leaving them.

The story of how the word "Houston" came to induce such anxiety in two little boys begins with DeAnne and Donnie Fitts' unsuccessful efforts to have children of their own. DeAnne suffered a miscarriage in 1989, and after that, despite the use of fertility drugs, the couple was unable to conceive.

So they decided to adopt, and in September 1993 they applied to Alternatives in Motion, a Houston adoption agency. They were told they would have to wait at least a year or more. But in the meantime, a 16-year-old girl named Brandi Baker had put her two sons up for adoption through another Houston agency, Blessed Trinity Adoptions. Baker, however, wasn't sold on any of the prospective adoptive parents seeking children through Blessed Trinity, so that agency contacted Alternatives in Motion, which had two applicants who offered everything Brandi said she wanted for her children: a house in the country, a drug free-environment, a mom who didn't work and could stay home with them. And that was how Brandi Baker handpicked DeAnne and Donnie Fitts to be the parents of Justin and Jacob Baker.

Within two weeks, Blessed Trinity administrators called the Fittses and said they had two young boys for the couple. The Fittses cleaned out DeAnne's Mary Kay retirement fund to pay the $17,500 cost of the adoption, and on October 11, they made the long drive down to Houston to meet with the boys' mother.

The agency arranged for the couple to meet with Brandi Baker at a motel near Hobby Airport. They talked with the young mother there, then visited with her over the next few days before being introduced to Justin and Jacob. Brandi told the Fittses she was giving away her children so she could return to school and make something of her life. If the boys one day wanted to meet her, she wanted them to be proud.

"We really formed a bond," DeAnne Fitts says of Brandi Baker. "I wanted to adopt her, too."

DeAnne couldn't help but feel sorry for Brandi as the teenager related her hard-luck story. Brandi's mother was in and out of her life as she was growing up, and she was mostly raised by aunts and uncles. Brandi was just 13 when she first had sex with Brendon Baker, who was then 20. In April 1990, shortly after the two began their relationship, Baker went to prison on a burglary conviction. He was there when Brandi, then 14, notified him that she was pregnant with Justin. If Brandi's mother had chosen, she could have brought charges against Brendon Baker for the statutory rape of her daughter. The two were married after their first son was born and Brendon was out of prison. Soon, Jacob arrived.

Both Brandi and Brendon had dropped out of school in the ninth grade, although Brendon has since received his GED. Brandi Baker's resume reveals that she worked for a short while at Taco Bell; the longest job she held was for three months as a receptionist. Brendon Baker worked as a roofer and plumber when he wasn't behind bars. But when he gave a deposition last May for his suit to regain custody of his children, the 25-year-old Baker said he had no bank account and had never filed a tax return.

In addition to their lack of schooling and spotty work records, Brandi and Brendon had something else in common: their mothers were both involved in the shooting deaths of men to whom they were married. Brandi says she was four years old when she saw her mother shoot and kill her father. Carolyn Oatis was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the slaying and went to prison. Brendon Baker's mother, Donna Camblin, was charged for the murder of one of her husbands -- not Brendon's father -- but received deferred adjudication and three years' probation.

That legacy of violence found expression in Brendon Baker, at least according to what Brandi told the Fittses and what she said in her own May 1995 deposition.

Brendon Baker, she said, had choked her, busted her lip, pulled a knife on her and struck her in front of Justin. He also had threatened to kill her and the children. Once, Brandi summoned the police when Brendon smashed out the windows of her mother's car with a baseball bat. She called the law again when he left a threatening message on her answering machine, vowing to blow off the head of the boyfriend she'd taken up with after Brendon had gone to prison again for a parole violation.

There was also the matter of Brendon's inattention to his children. While in prison, Brandi testified in her deposition, Brendon seldom asked about either of her sons or sent them letters or presents. She managed to support the family with food stamps, welfare and Medicaid.

When Brendon was out of prison, Brandi once left Justin with him. When she returned, her husband was smoking crack cocaine, she claimed, and the unattended child was dehydrated, appeared to have been crying and had a dirty diaper.

The 16-year-old mother of two was reaching a breaking point when she called a crisis hot line in the summer of 1993. Through the hot line she was connected to Blessed Trinity Adoptions. Her attorney, John McDermott, now says that the agency took advantage of Brandi's vulnerability and "vigorously compelled" her to give up her children. Brandi would later file a lawsuit alleging fraud by Blessed Trinity.

"Brandi Baker knew exactly what she was doing," says Sallee Smyth, a lawyer for Blessed Trinity. "She had a plan. She had a goal and she set out to accomplish it. She knew at every turn what she was doing."

And if Brandi Baker harbored any doubts or felt coerced to give up her children back in October 1993, the Fittses say they didn't see it. Records show Brandi Baker kept her children about two months after signing relinquishment papers in August 1993. During that time, she could have changed her mind. But after meeting with the Fittses, she seemed resolved, and she even arranged for a ceremony at her church to bless the adoption.

One of the saddest things for DeAnne and Donnie was leaving Brandi Baker behind on the day they drove off with Justin and Jacob.

"I wish we could have brought her with us, then," DeAnne Fitts says. "My heart broke for her that she had to deal with so much."

Texas law requires that children must live with their adoptive parents six months before the adoption can become legal. It was June 1994 when Donnie and DeAnne Fitts finalized the adoption in Seymour, the county seat of Baylor County.

In the meantime, the two youngsters had been getting adjusted to their new family and home. The Fittses live on five acres in the country outside of Seymour, complete with a horse named Whiz, a dog named Dixie, two turkeys, five cats and T.J., a baby goat that the boys raised themselves and bottle-fed after the kid's mother died. The Fittses, too, were adjusting and discovering the joys of parenthood. They found that Justin was similar in personality to DeAnne Fitts: he was artistic, enjoyed puzzles and loved the Bible story about Jonah and the whale. Jacob, the younger boy, was affectionate and happy-go-lucky; he loved to roughhouse with his new dad. In personality, he favored Donnie Fitts.

The first hint of trouble that was to invade their idyllic life came in the form of a phone call that November from Carolyn Oatis, Brandi's mother.

"She called up and said the adoption was illegal and she was coming to get the boys," says DeAnne Fitts. "We didn't believe her." (Both Brandi's mother and Brendon's mother would file petitions to obtain custody of the boys; Oatis later dropped her action, while Donna Camblin's claim was rejected by the jury that denied her son's custody petition. )

A few days after the phone call, the Fittses learned there was indeed a problem with the adoption. When Brandi Baker first filled out Blessed Trinity's paperwork, she neglected to inform the agency that she had filed for a divorce from Brendon Baker in Harris County earlier in 1993. Unaware of the pending divorce, Blessed Trinity had sought to terminate Brendon Baker's parental rights in Fort Bend County. Brandi's earlier divorce action, however, meant that Harris County held jurisdiction over decisions involving the children. Thus, the Fittses' Baylor County adoption of Justin and Jacob was voided.

The loophole seemed trivial, but the consequences were serious.
When the adoption was nullified, Brandi and Brendon's parental rights were automatically restored. If the Fittses wanted to keep the boys, they would have to go back to court -- this time in Houston -- to have the Bakers' rights terminated before seeking to adopt Justin and Jacob a second time. It would have been simpler, of course, if the Bakers had wanted the Fittses to adopt the boys again. But shortly after Brendon Baker was released from prison last March, he filed a custody petition, claiming he had never authorized Blessed Trinity to put Justin and Jacob up for adoption, setting off a custody battle with the Fittses. Brandi Baker soon petitioned the court to have her parental rights restored.

By the time their claims came to trial in Henderson's court this past November, Brandi Baker had recanted much of what she previously had said to the Fittses and in depositions about her husband's violent temper. Outside the courtroom, she told reporters that the violence she saw in Brendon Baker was understandable. He smashed out the windows of her mother's car only because he was concerned about seeing his kids; his intent was to wreck the car so she couldn't drive off with the children.

Brandi now says she lied when being deposed before the trial because she wanted to work with the Fittses, hoping they would agree to visitation rights she believed the couple and the adoption agency had promised her.

But portions of her deposition were read to the jurors during the trial. They also heard how Brendon Baker had been in prison for much of the children's lives and had failed to support them. His mother testified she once had him arrested when he was drunk and disruptive.

And the jury was read the transcript of the threatening phone message Brendon Baker had left for his wife and her boyfriend, which was part of the evidence police used in filing a harassment charge against him: "You better call me and get this motherfucking shit straight or I'll find your bitch ass and come over there and I swear to God, I'll kill [Brandi's new boyfriend] behind this shit. You better get my motherfucking kids where I can see them." Then he said to Brandi's boyfriend, "I swear to God, I'm gonna blow your motherfucking head off."

Henderson had ordered Brandi and Brendon to undergo psychological evaluations, and the psychologist who performed them, Edward Silverman, strongly urged that Justin and Jacob continue to reside with the Fittses. The boys, he said, had forged a strong, healthy bond with the couple and thought of them as their parents. Removing Justin and Jacob from the Fittses would be disruptive and detrimental to their well-being.

Silverman found both Brendon and Brandi to be unfit caretakers. Brendon, he said, had demonstrated little if any ability to live independently, sustain consistent employment or conform to the law. If the boys' needs conflicted with his, he would have difficulty meeting his children's needs. Silverman determined that Brendon's level of hostility and potential for antisocial behavior was considerable. If the Fittses or Brandi were granted custody of the boys and Brendon were permitted visitation, the children would be at "an increased risk for kidnapping," Silverman said.

The psychologist also noted that Brandi had acknowledged giving up the children because she had a number of deficiencies as a mother and couldn't give them a stable home. He found no evidence she had made any effort to improve her parenting skills.

Neither Brandi nor Brendon did much to help their case after they filed for custody. Silverman's report on Brendon noted that he was extremely irresponsible about even keeping his appointments for the psychological tests Henderson had required and had expressed no concern about the consequences of canceling appointments. There was more. Henderson had ordered both biological parents to undergo drug testing before the trial, and both had tested positive: Brandi for cocaine and Brendon for marijuana.

The jurors felt they had enough evidence to decide the Bakers weren't good parent material. On November 15, after a three-week trial, they voted unanimously to terminate the parental rights of both Brendon and Brandi, opening the way for the Fittses to adopt the children, again. DeAnne and Donnie wept in relief. When they packed their bags to go home to Seymour for Thanksgiving, they felt secure that their family would spend many more holidays together.

After their decision, Judge Henderson congratulated the jurors on a job well done. He told them they had cleared the way for the Fittses to adopt the children -- perhaps as soon as the following day. That's why the jurors were so confused when, two weeks later, they learned that the judge had invoked a seldom-used judicial privilege and overturned a portion of their verdict.

Some of them were more than confused -- they were furious. They believed they had worked hard to arrive at a fair decision, and the judge had wasted three weeks of their time. Harry Keller, the jury foreman and an engineer, complained that he lost about $3,000 in wages doing his civic duty. That would have been fine by him, if only the judge hadn't negated his three weeks of effort in ten minutes.

While Henderson left intact the jury's decision that Brandi's parental rights should be ended, he basically rejected their termination of Brendon's rights by determining that there was no adequate evidence to show that he had ever endangered Justin and Jacob.

The Fittses' attorney, Ellen Yarrell, filed a motion asking Henderson to reconsider his decision, and Keller and four other jurors showed up in the judge's court when he heard the motion on December 5. They asked Henderson to meet with them, but he refused. The judge stuck by his decision.

In the hallway afterward, reporters gathered around the different camps, circulating from one to another. In one corner, Harry Keller steamed. "Brendon Baker's been in jail half of [the children's] lives; he's tested positive for drugs. Is this someone who you want to raise two young children?"

In another corner, Brandi Baker vowed that she and the husband she is divorcing would change. Her hands shook while she answered questions.

"I want my kids back," she said. "I will do anything -- go to drug rehabilitation, anything E."

Nearby, Roger Chism, the court-appointed attorney for Brendon Baker, applauded Henderson's ruling, claiming the jury was biased against his ex-convict client and had acted on emotion and sympathy for the Fittses, rather than the facts.

Chism's remarks infuriated juror Judith Beaven when she heard him on the television news later that night. "This is not about the past, but about what they did when they knew they were going to court," says Beaven. "They had done nothing about counseling for their drug problem, there is no evidence of a steady job. They did nothing positive for trying to get the kids back."

Brendon Baker wasn't in the courtroom the day Henderson affirmed his decision. Neither were Donnie and DeAnne Fitts. Word had gotten out that the judge wasn't changing his mind, and they decided to stay home in Seymour with Justin and Jacob. Besides, when the Fittses returned from Houston after their last three-week stay for the trial, the boys had regressed, wetting their beds and becoming unusually clingy.

A discouraged Donnie Fitts just had one question: "How can you fight a judge?"

Bill Henderson says he's been misunderstood.
In a pre-New Year's interview in his chambers, the judge professed puzzlement at the jurors' reaction and the angry letters that had been pouring in to him from around the country. After all, he didn't take the children away from the Fittses and give them to Brendon Baker, and he agreed with the jury that it was in the best interest of the children for them to stay with the Seymour couple. Yet his decision has opened the door for Brendon to seek visitation rights and, one day, custody of the boys, while throwing the Fittses into a legal limbo.

Although the judge has indicated to lawyers for the Fittses and the children that he has no intention of granting visitation until after the Fittses' appeals are exhausted, Brendon Baker could file another motion at any time seeking visitation and custody.

While declining to address the specifics of the case while it is being appealed, Henderson made it clear that his decision was based on his belief that Brendon Baker's parental rights were abused in the adoption.

After Brandi Baker relinquished her rights to her children in August 1993, Blessed Trinity Adoptions attempted to contact Brendon Baker. He came to the agency the following month, but did not sign the papers to give up his own rights. Baker, in fact, now claims that the agency led him to believe that the children couldn't be adopted if he didn't sign the papers. Sallee Smyth, a lawyer for Blessed Trinity, says that Brendon heard only what he wanted to hear when he met with agency administrators. Whatever the case, in Texas it is perfectly legal for a parent's right to a child to be relinquished by default. And that's what happened to Brendon Baker's parental rights to Justin and Jacob.

After his visit to the agency, Blessed Trinity tried three times to serve a petition for termination to Brendon at his sister's house in Houston, where Brandi Baker told the agency her husband was living. Unable to present him the papers in person, the agency then went to court in Fort Bend County and won an order from Judge Thomas Stansbury permitting it to serve Baker by what is called "substituted service" through his sister. Baker's sister later claimed she didn't open the papers for five weeks. But the notice required an answer within three weeks, after which Baker's rights would be terminated by default.

There was a reason Blessed Trinity sought the termination in Fort Bend: among adoption agencies, the county is known as a more efficient, less costly venue for adoptions than Harris County. John McDermott, the lawyer for Brandi Baker, puts it another way: adoptions, he says, are "the cottage industry" of Fort Bend. Stansbury, who did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story, sets aside each Friday exclusively for terminations and adoptions in his court.

As the termination went forward, Blessed Trinity still had to present evidence to Stansbury that there were sufficient grounds to strip Brendon of his rights, and that the termination would be in the best interest of the children. Brendon Baker failed to contest the action or show up in court for the hearing, and the termination was finalized on October 8, 1993. At the trial of his suit seeking to have his rights to the children restored, Brendon Baker would testify that during some of the time in question he was at his mother's home in Livingston or in Florida visiting his father, who was dying of cancer.

While the adoption agency did nothing illegal, Henderson clearly thinks Brendon Baker was wronged by the action in Fort Bend County.

"The biological dad told the agency he did not want to give up these children," Henderson says. "They went forward with the termination .... When you default [after] you have been told he was opposed to [the adoption], you have to expect he will fight it."

Yet 18 months passed between the time Brendon Baker first visited the adoption agency and sued to have his parental rights restored. Roger Chism, Baker's attorney, says his client looked for his children during that interval, but couldn't find them. Brandi Baker now claims she tried to hide Justin and Jacob from her husband and "played games" with him. For his part, Brendon Baker says he attempted to locate the children even when he was in prison. He didn't find out where his children were until June 1994, eight months after the boys went to the Fittses and about the time the adoption was finalized in Baylor County.

As Henderson suggests, his decision was somewhat more complex than it has been portrayed by critics. Nonetheless, under Texas law, a judge is not to disturb or overrule a jury's decision if there is any credible evidence to support it.

What Henderson did was to reverse the jury on its findings that Brendon Baker left the children alone or with others without providing adequate support for at least six months, that he engaged in conduct that endangered them and left them in endangering conditions.

And what the jury saw as sufficient evidence on these questions -- Brendon's positive drug test prior to the trial, his criminal record and his history of violence and failure to support the boys -- failed to sway the judge. Henderson was even unimpressed by the positive result of the drug test that he had ordered. It was only one drug test, the judge says, and there was no evidence presented that Baker had a history of drug abuse.

After the trial, Roger Chism also dismissed the drug examination, attacking its validity as well as the expert witness on its administration, Dr. Ernest Lykissa of Drug Labs of Texas, whom Chism calls "the most pompous ass you ever saw." (During the trial, Brendon claimed the "high level of consumption" of marijuana the test detected had resulted from his second-hand inhalation of smoke. More recently, he told the Press that "the tests are screwed up.")

Likewise, Chism and Henderson reject the characterization of Baker as prone to violence.

"You would have to listen to the testimony yourself and decide if he was a violent man," Henderson says.

Chism claims his client only engaged in shoving matches with his wife, "as married people often do."

In fact, the judge and Chism seem to view Brendon Baker pretty much as Brendon Baker portrays himself: as a victim. In an interview after the trial, Baker denied ever abusing Brandi or threatening his children. He said he has never smoked crack cocaine and never been in trouble for drugs. And it was his parole officer's fault, Baker says, that he had to go back to jail twice for parole violations. In both instances, Baker says, he couldn't get off from work in time to report to the parole officer, who had him arrested when he reported in several hours late.

While Henderson denies that he was biased in favor of the biological father or his court-appointed attorney, juror Judith Beaven says several of her colleagues believe that the judge did demonstrate a partiality toward Chism.

Other critics of the judge's decision have pointed to the fact that Henderson set lawyer Lynn Kamin's fee at $7,500 for representing the interests of Justin and Jacob. Henderson appointed Chism to represent Brendon Baker in late October, right before the case came to trial, and set his fee at $15,000. The judge, who has the discretion to set reasonable fees for his ad litem appointments, explains the discrepancy by saying Blessed Trinity indicated it had a separate agreement with Kamin to pay the balance of her bill.

But Winnell Byrd, Blessed Trinity's director, says that's not entirely true. The agency struck no deal to pick up the remainder of Kamin's bill -- which, according to Kamin, was for more than $30,000.

"We were appalled at the discrepancy in fees," says Byrd. "The whole thing stinks. He was so biased. He was just letting his true feelings be known."

Henderson's decision has become something of a cause celebre among groups that advocate for adoptive parents and argue that the courts routinely show undue favoritism to biological parents, to the detriment of the children's best interest.

"He just doesn't get it," Joyce Zachman of Adoptive Parents Together, a local advocacy and educational organization, says of Henderson. "Adoption is about permanency."

In some ways, the judge seemed to view the Baker-Fitts dispute as that of a divorcing couple, where compromise is necessary in deciding on visitation and points of contention. Winnell Byrd of Blessed Trinity says it was as if the judge wanted the Fittses, the Bakers and Justin and Jacob to be one, big, happy family.

But adoption doesn't call for a compromise -- it's based on a termination of the biological parents' rights to their children. Even in open adoptions, in which the birth parents know the adoptive parents, visitation is seldom a part of the agreement. Relating to two sets of parents is considered confusing to young children.

Henderson says he is sensitive to the issue of permanency in adoption, and it's an arrangement he prefers. But he says he's bound to ensure that the rights of biological parents are not abjured, and in the case of Brendon Baker those rights superseded the best interest of Justin and Jacob.

"It may be a disservice to the children," Henderson says, "but I have to do what my oath requires."

According to one veteran family court judge, in such cases the rights of biological parents are indeed to be considered along with the best interest of the child. A judge must balance the two; it's a judgment call as to which prevails.

Zachman and other advocates for adoptive parents are seeking an attitudinal change by the courts, so that judges will start from the premise that a psychological bond can be just as strong as a biological one.

That, they say, would be in the children's best interest.
"At some point in an adoption case -- one, two or three years down the road -- the rights of the child should supersede the rights of the (biological) parent," says Star Boone of the Houston chapter of Hear Our Voice, a national child advocacy group.

Just before Christmas, Brandi Baker and Blessed Trinity reached a settlement of the fraud suit Baker had filed against the agency. While the agreement is confidential, the agency admitted no wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Brandi's lawyer has filed a motion in Henderson's court asking the judge to overturn the jury's decision to end her parental rights. It is scheduled to be heard on January 24.

These days, Brandi says, she's "coming up in the world." She's living with her boyfriend in a four-bedroom brick home, has plans to get her GED and wants to enroll in a modeling school. The 18-year-old who dropped out of the ninth grade and had two children before she was 16 has big dreams: someday, perhaps, she would be like to be a medical malpractice lawyer. Or maybe she will become a model, and that could lead to a career in the movies.

Up in Seymour, the Fittses' neighbors were generous over the holidays with their donations for the couple's legal expenses. They're also getting some help in Houston: Adoptive Parents Together's Zachman is organizing a February fundraiser, and librarian Karen Bohls, one of the jurors whose decision the judge overturned, is spearheading a letter-writing campaign of protest to Henderson's judicial superiors.

Meanwhile, Justin and Jacob asked Santa Claus for a swing set, and on Christmas Day, Santa delivered. It was a clear, sunny day in the Fittses' little slice of Texas. The boys donned new pairs of overalls and passed the hours swinging, seeing how high they could fly toward the blue sky. But a few days later Donnie Fitts had to go to Abilene on business, and Justin and Jacob grew agitated, asking if he was going to Houston again.

On Janaury 10, Brendon Baker told the Press that he was living with his new girlfriend in the FM 1960 area. He said he was looking for a job, and in the meantime was baby-sitting his girlfriend's children while she works. He said he wanted custody of Justin and Jacob, and he vowed that nothing would stop him until he got his family back.

"They are my kids. I'm sure they would love me, if they knew who I was," he said.

Two days later, Baker was arrested and charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. His girlfriend says they argued after she asked Brendon to move out of her apartment, and he held a knife at her throat and threatened to kill her before stabbing a neighbor who was attempting to intervene. After his bond was set at $30,000 and as he was preparing to go back to jail, Brendon said he was worried the arrest would destroy his chances of ever getting his boys back. But he was not guilty of the charges. "It was an accident,"he said.

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