A three-year nightmare for a young mother ended in January when the late-Judge Britt Plunk ordered Lacey Marie Salter returned to her mother by the paternal grandparents who sought custody of the child based on the theory they could be better parents because they had more money than the mom.
Shelly Nash was not allowed to call herself mama, the little girl’s first words, and was kept from her daughter for nearly six months because the grandparents said it confused Lacey. Even though they had taken the child away from Nash on a technicality with no evidence ever being lodged that Nash was a bad mother, the Salters called Nash “delusional” and “obsessed” over her little girl. The Salters even told Judge Plunk they never saw Lacey dirty, unclothed, hungry or being abused, but they still believed they deserved to raise the little girl.
It was also revealed in court that the Salters had, at one point, turned the little girl over to their son, Jeffrey Salter, who was an admitted sex offender although he is not registered with the state. Salter and Nash had separated and he filed for custody, which was how his parents were able to intervene in the case using a narrow exception in Texas law.
“Jeff’s history is with children five-years and up; Lacey was still a baby at the time,” his father, Steve Salter, told the judge. “He took Lacey, got in the car and Karen got in the car with him to make sure he didn’t do something in the state that he was in. And the friend that he was with is a very highly moral person, so we were not concerned.”
The judge was not impressed with Jeffrey or his parents and at the end of the hearing he said he would be making his ruling soon. The next day, Judge Plunk ruled that Lacey would be returned to her mother, who lived in Detroit and had made almost-monthly trips to Texas to see her daughter for the previous year.
UPDATE: For the first time, Lacey celebrated Easter with her mother, and the two hunted Easter Eggs at their home in Michigan. One night when Nash came in late from her classes at a local community college, Lacey ran up to her, hugged her and said she was “the best mommy in the world.”Lacey began school this year and has excelled in vocabulary, which sometimes gets her in trouble for talking too much. This was the first Christmas she has ever been able to celebrate, as her paternal grandparents followed an offshoot of the Jewish faith. She sat with Santa and opened presents left for her under the Christmas tree.
Jerry Jordan can be reached at (409) 498-1074, or at jerry [at] theexaminer [dot] com.