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April 18, 2012 permalink
After Texas mother Verna McClain suffered a miscarriage, she decided to steal another mother's baby to present to her fiancé. Possibly she intended to keep their impending marrage on course. She murdered Kala Marie Golden Schuchardt and took her three-day-old baby Keegan Schuchardt. The stolen baby was not even the same color as the thief. Police found the baby alive and unraveled the whole story within hours. Baby thief and killer McClain has been arrested and Keegan is back with what is left of his family.
Sheriff: Verna McClain took baby, told fiance' he was the father
SPRING, Texas — Authorities say a woman accused of killing a young mother and abducting a 3-day-old boy had suffered a recent miscarriage.
Officials in Montgomery County say Verna McClain, 30, had told her fiance' she was pregnant with his child. They planned to marry in May.
After she had a miscarriage, McClain allegedly killed Kala Golden and abducted tiny Keegan Golden from outside a pediatrician’s office in suburban Houston. Keegan was found unharmed hours later with McClain’s sister.
McClain now faces a capital murder charge and is being held without bail. Her fiance, who was not identified, is being interviewed by authorities.
Montgomery County deputies say McClain — a licensed vocational nurse— went to the Northwood Pediatric Center to find a woman with a baby.
"We think she knew the patterns of the pediatric center because she’d taken her children there in the past," said Lt. Dan Norris with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office.
Kala Golden took her baby to Northwood for a checkup. When she returned to her truck, McClain was waiting with a handgun.
"An altercation erupted with the suspect. The suspect shot Kala several times, then took the child from the pickup," said Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage.
Despite her wounds, deputies said Golden tried to get the baby away from McClain. The suspect hit the dying mother with her car as Golden reached into the Lexus screaming, "My baby!" according to Norris.
An Amber Alert was issued for the baby, 3-day-old Keegan Schuchardt.
Golden was rushed to Memorial Hermann in The Woodlands where she died.
Hours after the abduction, detectives who canvassed parking lots in the area spotted a Lexus fitting the description of the killer's car at the Fawn Ridge apartment complex, located in the 12400 block of Sawmill Rd.
While officers were searching the complex for the missing child, they said McClain showed up and asked to speak to them.
Investigators said McClain admitted to shooting Golden so she could take the baby, and told investigators where Keegan was.
Texas Rangers found the child at a home off FM 1960, where McClain's parents live, around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. The baby was with McClain’s sister, deputies said. He was not harmed.
The sheriff’s office said that McClain tried to represent Keegan as her own child to family members. Her sister allegedly told authorities that McClain had plans to "do the adoption" after taking Keegan.
Keegan was placed in CPS custody, but was released to unnamed family members late Wednesday morning.
Keegan’s father, Keith Schuchardt, said he did not have his son.
Schuchardt said he hasn’t yet signed Keegan’s birth certificate, complicating the process of getting his child back.
"My son-in-law is trying to get his child, and they got to run background checks on everybody before we can even get our baby back. My daughter’s baby. It was my daughter that was murdered. And it’s just really sad," said Linda Golden, the victim’s mother.
Keith Schuchardt said he was at work when he got the call about the shooting, and by the time he got to the hospital, his wife was dead. He said he didn’t know why anyone would want to harm her.
"It’s just a random thing, I think. We don’t have any enemies. I don’t know why anyone would do it. Maybe she lost her baby and wanted a baby … or to sell him. I want to get my baby back. I know that," Schuchardt said.
Though initial reports from the scene of the abduction indicated there was a man in the car with McClain, detectives on Wednesday morning said they believe she acted alone.
Still, the investigation was ongoing, and investigators were planning to examine evidence and conduct additional interviews later in the day.
Two weeks after the killing of his wife, father Keith Schuchardt is not allowed to see his own children.
CPS worsens husband's grief over slain wife
On April 17, Keith Schuchardt absorbed the horrific news that an unknown assailant had gunned down his wife of 3½ years, Kala, and had fled with the couple's three-day-old son, Keegan. When he learned from news reporters that the infant had been found safe, Schuchardt went to the Montgomery County sheriff's office around 3 a.m. on April 18 to retrieve his son. He had hoped his nightmare was coming to an end. It was only beginning.
A caseworker from Child Protective Services noticed that his name was not on the birth certificate. It was a clerical error that could be resolved easily with the Schuchardt's marriage certificate. Then she started asking questions.
Did Schuchardt have a criminal history? Did he abuse illegal substances? The 38-year-old air conditioning worker owned up to a seven-year-old drug conviction. He also answered honestly that a drug test would likely find marijuana in his system.
That's when Schuchardt, who only hours before learned his wife had been murdered in a senseless act of violence, received the second devastating blow: CPS would require him to allow a brother-in-law to take temporary custody of Keegan, as well as his 2-year-old son, Keaton, and Kala's 4-year-old son from a previous relationship, Kamden.
"They told me I couldn't get my kids," Schuchardt recalls. He asked if he could call a lawyer. "She said if you get a lawyer, they will stay in CPS custody. I didn't want to do that. I just found out my three-day-old baby is safe. I want to sit there and hold my three-day-old baby."
'I'm like nobody'
As expected, the drug test showed marijuana use, as well as an opiate, which Schuchardt attributes to a Vicodin Kala handed him when he complained of a headache that morning. "I didn't do anything wrong," Schuchardt told me.
The next day, he voluntarily signed an agreement temporarily leaving his children in his brother-in-law's care while attending family classes "for three to six months."
Since then, he's buried his wife, and followed the news of the arrest of his wife's alleged murderer. In court, the judge denied bail to alleged shooter Verna McClain. Ironically, "the judge says, 'why should I give you bond when Kala doesn't get to be with her kids?' I don't get mentioned. I'm like nobody," Schuchardt says.
Veteran family law attorney Julie Ketterman, who has been retained by Schuchardt to get his children returned, maintains CPS had no legal right to take the children because there was no proof of "an immediate risk of physical or emotion harm of the child."
"Here you have children who have lost their mother and now the state has forced them to be without their father," Ketterman said. "As he is preparing to bury his wife, he doesn't get the solace of holding his own children."
While Schuchardt voluntarily signed an agreement to temporarily place his children with his brother-in-law, "it was two days after his wife's been shot," Ketterman said. And the report notes that "he says he doesn't understand why he is there because he's done nothing wrong. The government is basically holding his children hostage."
'He's been very honest'
Not so, said CPS media specialist Gwen Carter. Law enforcement called CPS into the case after the abduction. "If we are called to talk to a parent, we ask 'do you have a history of substance abuse?' and then we have to develop a plan with that family," Carter said. Of Schuchardt, she said, "He's been very honest."
But doesn't there need to be evidence of some injury? "The majority of calls we get are about neglect," she says. Was Schuchardt advised not to call an attorney? "I can't imagine anyone on our staff saying that," she said.
Ketterman says she would have advised Schuchardt that he didn't have to answer questions. Today, she says she will inform CPS that her client plans to reclaim his children, and revoke the "voluntary" placement plan signed under duress.
Clearly, Keith Schuchardt hasn't followed the straight and narrow path in his life. In one news report of the murder, a family friend described him as a "wild kid" who found stability in his marriage and in fatherhood.
CPS encounters frightening cases of drug-addicted parents abusing their children on a daily basis, and their vigilance is understandable. But in Schuchardt's case, Ketterman believes the agency intimidated a distraught, grieving husband and father, and in the process, trampled his parental rights.
I asked Schuchardt what Kala would do in his situation. He teared up, but said the feisty mother of three boys would fight until the children were returned.
Source: Houston Chronicle