Battered Mother Lost Custody to Abusive Spouse (special report)

May 5, 2015

A battered mother lost custody of her kids to an abusive spouse after she refused to participate in court-ordered therapy with her ex-husband who had been convicted on nearly a dozen charges of sexually and physically assaulting her. 

Connecticut family court judge Maureen Murphy issued the shocking order on January 6, 2015, giving sole custody to violent offender Angelo Gizzi because his ex-wife Angela Gizzi (nee Hickman) refused to participate in "family reunification" therapy.

In 2007, Angelo Gizzi was charged with 13 criminal counts ranging from spousal abuse, spousal sexual assault, kidnapping, threatening, and risk of injury to a child.

When defendant Gizzi’s ex-wife -- who was severely traumatized from the domestic abuse -- was unable to testify against him because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the state of Connecticut cut a plea deal for Gizzi to plead guilty to a series of misdemeanors, avoiding jail time.

Gizzi was initially given only supervised visitation with the couple’s two children, however several court professionals were assigned to the divorce including attorney William Brown as Guardian ad Litem to the Gizzi’s children, and Deborah Datz and Linda Smith as co-reunification therapists.

As a result, compulsory therapy sessions requiring Angela Gizzi to spend time in the same room with her physically and psychologically abusive ex-husband was proposed and Angela Gizzi, who understandably declined to take part in it, was punished by the court.

“She has not succeeded in dealing with the anxiety of being in Mr. Gizzi’s presence. She has refused to be in the same room with him or to engage in any co-parenting counseling,” Judge Murphy admonished in her decision revoking Angela Gizzi’s parenting rights and awarding her batterer sole custody.

The ruling also ignored Angela Gizzi’s contention that forced reunification would violate her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, compelling a victim to interact with her attacker despite a PTSD medical diagnosis.

Following Judge Murphy’s prejudicial ruling, Angela Gizzi suffered a heart attack and her cardiologist, Dr. David Lorenz also said any interaction with her ex-husband would put her heart in jeopardy: “It is critical to Mrs. Hickman’s health that she have no interaction or exposure to Mr. Gizzi indefinitely,” the physician warned.

Reunification therapist Dr. Datz responded: “I also noted Dr. Lorenz’s suggestion that you have no interaction or exposure to the children’s father indefinitely … Ms. Hickman, please be aware that when you are provided with the opportunity to have the initial renewed contact with your children, their father will be present.”

After the battered mother lost custody, an anonymous teacher at her son’s school sent Dr. Datz a letter revealing that Angela and her son were violating court orders by communicating via text messages.

The boy had reportedly confided to the teacher that texting his mother was “the only thing that gets him through the day … he said she isn’t supposed to respond to his texts but that she does.”

Still, that tragic detail doesn’t seem to move Family Court judge Maureen Murphy who, not incidentally, was also involved in one of the most notorious custody battles in Connecticut history -- that of Sunny Kelley.

In the Kelley case, the mother discovered her young son had been raped and made a report to Connecticut Department of Child and Family, who failed to investigate and ruled instead that Kelley herself was the problem.

Murphy, a lawyer at the time, was one of 11 court-appointed professionals who ignored physical evidence that Kelly’s child had been sexually molested, including symptoms of a penile infection as well as supporting testimony from the boy’s pediatrician and expert testimony from Dr. Eli Newberger, a 30-year veteran in child abuse investigations.

Sunny Kelley said that when Dr. Newberger was testifying during a sworn deposition outlining the abuse, then-attorney Murphy mocked him by making obscene noises reminiscent of the famous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally.

Today, Judge Murphy, along with her associates Dr. Datz and court-appointed guardian ad litem William Brown, are part of the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) which is being investigated by a task force of the US Attorney’s Office.

Neither of them responded to phone calls or emails from Crime Magazine asking for comment.

Peter Salem, the Executive Director of the national AFCC, and Marylou Giovannucci, the President of the Connecticut chapter, also didn’t reply to emails.



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