April 12, 2007
To Whom It May Concern:
Jacob Michael O'Rourke is our grandson. He and his sister Sarah Elizabeth O'Rourke have been living in our home for approximately twelve years. Back about 1995, Jefferson County (Alabama)Family Court awarded custody of Jacob and Sarah to me and my wife Carol. (The guardian ad litem in all the related hearings was an attorney named Julie Marks. I believe she is still serving in that capacity at Jefferson County Family Court.)
Sometime in March of 1995, Judge Elise Barclay awarded us custody and granted weekend visitation to the birth mother, Rachael Benson Long, and the maternal grandmother, Judith Benson, was responsible for supervising the visitation. This custody arrangement was, as I recall, subject to review after six months.
On April 1, 1995, obviously memorable because of April Fools Day, Jacob and Sarah were supposed to return to our home after the very first visitation per the agreement. It was a 24-hour visitation supervised by a person whom I will forever call the "bad" grandmother, that is, Judith Benson. (Ms. Benson was a psychiatric nurse practioner at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, and this despite the fact that she had been treated with electro-shock therapy for mental problems of her own. Mr. Edwin Benson, to whom she was married at the time, was a person she had met when Benson was a patient in her hospital.)
They went away on March 31, but they did not return! Judith Benson, Rachael, and a friend of Judith's absconded with the children. About seven months later, that is, about Thanksgiving of 1995, I was called by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and was told that the children had finally been found. (A personal note at this point: while our children were missing, a woman named Susan Smith pushed her car into a lake with her little boys trapped in their kiddy seats. Carol and I were beside ourselves during that time because we had already seen how violent Rachael could be.)
As things developed, it turned out that an FBI fugitive task force from the Omaha office arrested Rachael. The agent in charge of that operation was named Forrest Dalstead. (My spelling of his name is pretty close, but don't count on it!)
Of course, I am aware that much of what I am telling you has little relevance to the case involving Jacob. Nevertheless I think you sould know the irrelevant but essential aspects of this case. The point that I want to make is this:
Judge Barclay looked at me and Carol, and said words to this effect: "Either you take them or we'll take them!"
We took them gladly! We couldn't believe that a court had awarded custody to the paternal grandparents, but that is exactly what happened; and, we were stunned by the fact that our beloved grandchildren would be allowed to live with us. It was the greatest moment in our lives!
Here's what we have done to help Jacob develop into a healthy and happy young person:
As long as Jacob was willing to play sports(that is, until he was about 13), we kept him involved in basketball and soccer with our local recreational league. Later, when his interests changed more to music, we hired him a private guitar teacher and bought him the necessary guitars, amps, and so forth. When his talent for the guitar began to emerge, we encouraged him to audition for a praise band at Huffman United Methodist Church in Birmingham. He was accepted in the group and performed and rehearsed with them weekly up until the time he asked to go stay with Charles and Kathleen in Mobile.
We started Jacob in St. Barnabas Catholic School in first grade. When we moved to Clay, he attended Clay-Chalkville Elementary School and then Clay-Chalkville Middle School.When the public middle school was not working out, we put Jacob in a private school, Parkway Christian School. When that didn't work out, we put him Jubilee Academy Home School. After two years of home school, he persuaded us to let him start 9th grade at Clay-Chalkville High School. He passed all his classes for one semester, and then we learned he was using substances. We put him back in Jubilee Academy Home School. Almost immediately he asked to go to Mobile and stay with Charles and Kathleen for a while.