Fla. Boy, 4, Killed by Dad in Murder-Suicide on Day Mom Asked Court to Keep Father Away From Him
Alison Kessler did everything she could to protect her son, Greyson Kessler, but the system failed her, her family says
A 4-year-old Florida boy was killed by his father in a murder-suicide on the same day the child's mother begged the court for an emergency pick-up of her son — which a judge allegedly denied.
On Thursday night, authorities believe John Stacey, 47, shot and killed his son, Greyson Kessler, before turning the gun on himself at his Fort Lauderdale apartment, local police said in a release.
Their bodies were found Friday at about 10 p.m., according to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Frantic that she couldn't reach Stacey and Greyson, the boy's mother, Alison Kessler, petitioned the court for an emergency order on Friday morning asking authorities to pick up the boy because she feared for his safety, CBS4 News reports.
She said Stacey hadn't taken Greyson to school and that police were unable to find him, Local 10 News reports.
"The father is wrongfully detaining the minor child," her attorney wrote in the petition, according to court records obtained by CBS4 News. "The Mother is justifiably concerned the minor child may be injured in the Father's care."
The request was denied.
The judge said the motion "does not present an emergency as it addresses the issue of child visitation," reports to the Sun Sentinel.
On Wednesday night, Stacey had picked up Greyson, and Kessler grew concerned when she hadn't heard from them.
Court records show that he had also been sending her disturbing text messages, CBS4 News and NBC 6 South Florida report.
In a May 14 text, Stacey allegedly wrote, "You are not allowed to date other people. It's either me or no one. Or I will remove child support and quintuple text volume. The choice is yours, Ali," according to court records, NBC 6 South Florida reports.
On May 18, he called her "a vile pig," court records show, NBC 6 South Florida reports.
"You deserve to have your head separated from body, and deserve to die," one of the messages stated, according to court records. "But I am not the violent type. God will deal with you."
On Thursday, prior to asking for the emergency pick-up, Kessler asked the court for a domestic violence injunction to keep Stacey away from her and her son, Local 10 News and CBS4 News report.
"His behavior is erratic and escalating, and I fear for my life, my boyfriend's life, and most of all my child. He is unstable mentally," she wrote in the petition, CBS4 News reports.
But the judge denied it, saying, "Petitioner has failed to allege any overt acts by Respondent which would constitute domestic violence under Florida Statute," according to court records obtained by CBS4.
Stacey was suffering from untreated PTSD from being a member of "The Moonies," a religious group he had previously been a member of that Kessler alleged in court records was a cult.
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Stacey left abusive voicemail messages for Kessler, put a tracker on her car and was angry at her for having Greyson, she alleged in the court records.
In a GoFundMe set up to help defray funeral and legal expenses, the family wrote, "The police, child protective services, and the criminal justice system failed Greyson and Ali, who filed multiple emergency orders to get Greyson safely away from the father, who had been sending threatening text messages and emails to Ali, and exhibited frightening behavior. If the domestic violence injunction filed by Alison had been approved by the judge, our Greyson would be here with us today."
In a statement, the family to CBS4 News, the family said,"Greyson was the kindest, smartest, most animated kid we have ever known."
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department called the murder-suicide "a parent's worst nightmare."
"We understand the mother and family of the child victim are feeling an immense amount of grief at this time. We want to ensure them, and our community, we will be conducting a full investigation into this incident."
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.