By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
When Jones found out Corcoran was going after Brittany in 1994, she went to the Family Law Center protesters for support. She met Phrogge Simons, known in Houston for her several years of protests at the Family Law Center and for the unspecified charges of corruption she's leveled against the Harris County District Attorney's office. Jones would introduce Simons to Brittany some years later as "Froggie."
In November 1996, Jones filed a federal civil-rights suit against Jim and Stacy Corcoran, Lisa Millard, T. Wayne Harris, the court-appointed psychologist, David Wachtel, and Corcoran's lawyers, Gae Preston and Reginald Hirsch. She alleged a conspiracy to commit "unlawful and tortious acts of retaliation" to deprive her of the right to raise Brittany.
Jones also claimed Corcoran fabricated the safe, secure and happy home life he and Stacy promised to provide Brittany. She unearthed a complaint filed with Bellaire police by Stacy Corcoran, who alleged that Corcoran beat her on May 5, 1996, less than three weeks after Millard gave Corcoran custody. According to the complaint, Stacy moved out that day. She later submitted to police two Polaroid snapshots of her legs, which were bruised from the knee to the ankle from, she alleges, Corcoran kicking her while she was on the ground.
Corcoran calls his ex-wife's assault complaint "bogus." He contends that the photographs were actually taken after Stacy had liposuction on her calves. The assault case was later dismissed.
In April 1997, a federal district court judge dismissed Jones's civil-rights complaint. It was around that time, Jones says, that during her visitations with Brittany, she noticed her daughter doing curious things with her Barbie dolls, such as imitating sexual acts and positions. Last August, Jones became alarmed enough to file for an emergency hearing before a judge. She planned to submit Stacy's assault complaint and to ask the judge to have Brittany evaluated by a psychologist to determine if she was ever abused. Jones asked that the hearing take place within three days of her motion. When the judge set the hearing for 30 days away, Jones decided to act.
On August 17, 1997, Jones called Corcoran and told him she wasn't bringing Brittany back until the girl had undergone the psychological evaluation. Corcoran immediately called his lawyer, who got a court order compelling Jones to return Brittany immediately. When she didn't, Corcoran started staking out Jones's FM 1960-area neighborhood.
On August 31, Labor Day weekend, Corcoran saw Jones's blue Volvo and, while following her, guided the pursuit of sheriff's constables on his cell phone. They were in Humble by the time the law caught up with Jones and jailed her for defying a court order to surrender her child.
By then, however, Brittany was nowhere to be found, and her mother wasn't talking.
Emma Johnson hadn't seen or spoken to Phrogge Simons in years when her old friend called one day and asked if she'd do her a favor. A couple of days later, Simons brought a young girl out to Johnson's place in Angleton.
Simons didn't offer much information about Brittany, just that she'd be back to fetch the girl in a week. When Johnson had to take her daughter-in-law to Houston for the day, she didn't have much choice but to take Brittany along.
She was standing beside the truck, smoking a cigarette, when she heard Brittany, with some urgency in her voice, say, "There's my daddy."
According to a statement Emma Johnson gave to Bellaire police, Brittany then "fell down in the back of the truck and started crying." Corcoran, whom Johnson identified in her statement as "The White Man," leaned over and started trying to comfort the child. But, according to Johnson, Brittany appeared afraid of the man, or at least very reluctant to leave with him.
"The girl was carrying on and pulling back from the White Man," Johnson told police. "The White Man picked up the girl and took her to his car. I didn't know what was happening...."
Nikki Jones was alone in a cell at Harris County Jail when she learned Brittany had been reunited with Corcoran. There wasn't much she could do, of course, so she just kept praying, just kept asking God to protect Brittany from her father.
Meanwhile, Corcoran took Brittany home and called Detective D.J. Hazelwood of the Bellaire police, who wanted to interview the girl. As Corcoran cleaned his daughter up and got her a change of clothes, he discovered she was wearing ratty, old shoes, her socks had holes in them and she had contracted head lice. Brittany also told her father that, on one occasion, she and her mother had traveled in the trunk of a car to avoid being seen.
The following morning, Hazelwood received a "priority one" fax from the state Children's Protective Services that Jim Corcoran "had been accused of abuse in the past." Hazelwood called CPS, as well as the district attorney's office, and reported that he had already interviewed Brittany, who "denied any type of physical or emotional violence from Mr. Corcoran." Hazelwood chose not to investigate the CPS complaint "due to the allegations being false."
But Phrogge Simons, the courthouse protester with whom Brittany was entrusted from August 30, when Jones brought the girl to her, until she was found, March 24, isn't so sure.