Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 1999 /14 Teves, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- LITTLE CORNILOUS PIXLEY has never really known a merry Christmas. This is how he spent the last four holiday seasons:
-- In December 1995, Cornilous was one month away from being born to a mother who had smothered his half-sister, Nakya, to death. "She just kept on crying," Latrena Pixley told the D.C. police three years earlier. "I didn't have any [baby] food in the house…I picked her up and began to rock her. She still would not stop crying. This was when I put the blanket over her face. I just killed her."
Pixley dumped Nakya in a trash bin, cooked dinner for her boyfriend, partied until 2:30am, and confessed the next morning at the breakfast table. Cornilous' dead sibling, swaddled in a garbage sack, was six weeks old.
Pixley was sentenced to a mere 156 weekends in jail and halfway houses. She was given work in a job-training program and at a government child-welfare agency, rewarded with free child care, and released early despite violating her probation. The infamous leniency with which the D.C. court system treated Pixley made bleak headlines long before Cornilous's birth.
-- In December 1996, Cornilous (nearly a year old) had no stable place to call home. At the beginning of the year, by court order, he lived with Pixley in the same apartment where she had killed baby Nakya. Pixley was in and out of halfway houses until her probation was revoked in the spring. She went to jail for committing credit-card fraud, and her 5-to-15-year sentence for murder was reinstated.
An intern in the D.C. public defender's office, Laura Blankman, volunteered to care for Cornilous while Pixley served time. Blankman, now a Maryland police officer, had met Pixley during her murder trial for Nakya's death and attended Cornilous' delivery. From his first breath, Blankman was there for Cornilous – a dependable, loving, law-abiding presence. He called her "Mommy."
-- In December 1997, however, Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court judge Michael Mason ordered Cornilous returned to Pixley.
Why wasn't Pixley still in jail? Because earlier that year, at the request of her lawyers, the same superior court judge who presided over her murder trial suspended the remainder of her sentence, placed her on probation, and ordered her to live in a halfway house so she could reunite with Cornilous.
Judge George Mitchell determined it was in "the best interest of the child" to allow Pixley to be with Cornilous instead of being held accountable for killing Nakya. But Pixley herself wasn't too interested in Cornilous' best interests. She ignored the judge's order to report to the halfway house in March and, according to prosecutors, only visited her son once while she was free. Judge Mitchell sent her back to jail – only to release her again for good before Christmas.
-- By December 1998, Cornilous was entangled in a caustic custody battle between Pixley and Blankman. Blankman, who sought to adopt Cornilous, had appealed the circuit court ruling by Judge Mason. She argued that the goal of natural family reunification did not outweigh the risks of sending Cornilous back to a criminally unfit mother. Cornilous' biological father agreed in a TV interview that Blankman should have custody of the child. So did another man who had fathered another child with Pixley.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals concluded that there was evidence "legally sufficient to support a conclusion that [Pixley] is a selfish con artist whose parental rights should be terminated," but inexplicably upheld Mason's ruling. That decision was unanimously reversed by the state's highest court earlier this year and remanded to the lower courts.
Now, as Christmas Eve 1999 approaches and Cornilous' fourth birthday nears, the little boy's fate lies in the hands of yet another judge. At a five-day custody trial last week, lawyers for Pixley, who is black, shamelessly played the race card by accusing Blankman, who is white, of being unfit because she didn't know enough about black history.
Will the courts continue to ruin Cornilous' life or will he get the gift of peace, love, and security he deserves? We can pray – and act.
Contributions to Cornilous Pixley's legal defense fund can be sent to the
National Center for Adoption at 1930 17th St. N.W., Washington D.C.
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