Halseth custody combat: Courtroom video exhibits mother and father earlier than choose

A judge leading a lengthy custody battle for 16-year-old Sierra Halseth foresaw trouble months before she and her boyfriend were charged with fatally stabbing their father, court videos received on the Las Vegas Review-Journal Show.

“This entire case discourages me,” said Family Judge Charles Hoskin in early March, about a month before Daniel Halseth’s body was found stabbed and burned in the garage of his home in northwest Las Vegas. “It is possible that after the evidence has been taken, I will simply tear the child out of Papa’s house and put the child exclusively in Mum’s house.”

Sierra’s mother, now named Elizabeth Helgelien, was granted sole custody after Daniel Halseth filed for divorce in 2011, but the girl’s parents began challenging the custody agreements last year, court records show.

Halseth’s body, which had been stabbed 70 times, was found on April 9th. His body had been stuffed in a sleeping bag before being set on fire, which resulted in burns of about 40 percent of his body, according to an autopsy report.

His daughter and boyfriend, 18-year-old Aaron Guerrero, were charged with murder, conspiracy, arson, robbery, and fraudulent credit card use in connection with his death.

The girl’s attorney, Michael Sanft, said the bitter custody battle could help shed light on what was happening.

“The story has more to offer than what we have heard and published in the media,” said softly. “It’s a process, and that process takes time. And at some point in the future there will be a full picture for anyone to understand what happened and why it happened. We ask everyone to withhold their judgment until they see the full picture. “

“I want my daughter back”

At the March hearing before Hoskin, Helgelien said she hadn’t seen her daughter in months.

“Daniel and his home are not healthy,” she told the judge. “He clearly beat me up and spoke negatively about me and lied to Sierra, which negatively affected my relationship with her. … I want my daughter back. I want her to be healthy again and emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy again. I want the best for her, and she deserves it. “

Halseth then implied that his ex-wife had lied.

“It feels like reality TV every time I hear Elizabeth speak …” he said. “I have no idea why she says the things she says.”

The series of videos the newspaper received shows court hearings dating back to August when Halseth was ordered to return Sierra to her mother’s care after Hoskin found he was in breach of her agreement.

But when the parents attended a virtual hearing the next month, Sierra was back with her father.

Wanting primary custody, Halseth told the judge that Sierra was in a “toxic environment” at her mother’s house.

He told the judge that Sierra lived with him in his four bedroom house and that “the living conditions are perfect here.”

Halseth filed a motion to amend the custody agreement and “address the intervention of the CPS”. A child protection spokeswoman has declined to publish any Sierra-related records to the review journal, citing confidentiality.

Helgelien called her ex-husband’s allegations “fabricated” and suggested that Halseth made no real effort to return Sierra to her.

“He can say he returned her, but it was an obvious plan for her to return to him in a few hours,” said Helgelien. “And he literally just dropped you off, just to say, ‘Your Honor, I followed the court orders to drop you off.'”

The judge said he was concerned about an apparent lack of communication between Sierra and her mother and wanted the girl to be questioned through what is known as a family court mediation.

Attorney Louis Schneider, who specializes in family and criminal law but was not involved in the custody battle, said marriage and family therapists could help nurture new relationships between children and their parents. Therapist reports are usually sealed in such cases.

In Nevada, family court judges typically prefer joint custody to allow children to have equal time with each parent, Schneider said.

“We need therapy”

At an October hearing, the judge pushed for reunion therapy to facilitate joint custody.

“I saw a lot of things at Sierra that worried me,” said Hoskin. “It shows me that something else is going on with Sierra. … And now I don’t know who is to blame. But I am less concerned with pointing the blame than with this child and the child’s relationship with its parents. “

The parents argued over whether Sierra had received adequate counseling.

“We have to initiate therapy at this point in order to move forward,” said the judge. “I haven’t gotten to the bottom of what is or isn’t happening to Sierra, but I am extremely concerned about what will or won’t happen to Sierra. … Hopefully this is not something that either of you is promoting, because the lifelong harm to this child is something that you will have to bear with your conscience in the future. “

Prior to a December hearing, Halseth filed a letter to the judge that he said was written by Sierra.

The judge was quick to admonish Halseth.

“It is totally inappropriate to involve a child at this level,” said Hoskin. “I would think as long as we were on this case you would know that it is inappropriate to have a child when they are so involved in the lawsuit.”

Helgelien questioned whether her daughter actually wrote the letter, which was not published.

“This behavior is absolutely not Sierra,” she said, “not the relationship I had with her.”

Contact David Ferrara at [email protected] or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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