There is something special about show notes. It’s really what we meant to talk about. Its not necessarily what we had time to discuss. This episode ran long. About 20 minutes longer than the hour we were targeting so there’s lots of information here we didn’t cover.MY INTRO – Welcome to the Saving Fatherhood Podcast. This is our fourth episode and we’re finally interviewing a father. We are recording on Father’s Day eve and we’ll be interviewing a father who has been alienated from all 3 of his daughters. I wish I could report that the alienation is the worst part of Zach’s story. It is not. As a direct result of his alienation, Zach’s oldest daughter lost her life. She was murdered. Tonight you will hear her tell her story and Zach will tell his. Our society needs to hear Zach’s story. Zach is committed to sharing it. His goal is preventing the evil that is caused by pathogenic parenting. Zach is also an advocate for other reforms in the court system which we will talk about tonight. Most importantly Zach has given his life to his lord and savior Jesus Christ. I’m proud to welcome tonight’s special guest, Zach Hoffer.
|1. Zach in my introductory comments I mentioned that I don’t think our society has enough information about stories like yours. Actually stories like Anjelica’s, your daughter. I read the story you wrote on your website and I thought it was really powerful. I’d like to ask you to read that to our audience. But I’d first like to hear a little bit about her, who she was and what your relationship was like.
Anjelica was like a super hero. She had special powers. So smart and so athletic. I really loved our time together. She had a very trusting nature about her. I remember when she was little, I would put her on top of the car and tell her to jump to me. Then I would step back and no matter how far away I got, she trusted that I would catch her. And I did. We hiked mountains together. We climbed rocks. We mountain biked. She was fearless. I told her she could do it and she believed me. One thing that stood out about her was her courageous heart. She would face obstacles without concern for how silly she might look. She just went straight ahead. I remember her being the smallest on her basketball team, but never being afraid or shy. Another thing that stood out about her was how great of a big sister she was. She was like a little shepherd, always keeping the younger two in check. She was very loving and had a great sense of humor. We loved cooking together. She got so good at softball that I could throw the ball to her almost as hard as I could, when she was 13. She was an original. She was my first daughter so everything with her was so cool, like teaching her to ride a bike or climb cliffs or to swim or play baseball. I just loved it. I really miss her. None of my girls will ever be little again, but I really miss them when they were so little and precious and cute. Now their precious and cute in a different way.
|2. Could you now read “My name is Anjelica. This is my story. “
|3. I was recently watching a post that says, Because I know there is injustice in the world I know there is a God. Because God defines what is just and what is not. If there is no God who are we to say what is just and what is not. What does your faith tell you about justice?
(If you don’t I’ll probably mention how God loves Justice so much he required someone to pay the price for our sin)(3 min)I have been forced to examine what justice REALLY means. In fact, justice has always been very important to me. My daughter’s name is Justice. I have two college degrees in Justice.Justice to me is summed up by what Elihu said to Job in response to Job crying out to God – “why me?”. Elihu basically said, ‘why not you?”. ‘We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’. ‘Anyone who says he is not a sinner is a liar’. Beginning in Job 33, Elihu the young wise man astutely points out, “I have sinned+ and distorted what is right,But I did not receive what I deserved.*28 He has redeemed my soul* from going into the pit,*+And my life will see the light.’True justice is not of this world. Nearly all of the chosen 12 apostles suffered and died. Jesus himself suffered and died. It is difficult, but we must have hope for a resurrected life after this one. God will handle true justice and vengeance.That’s what the bible says, and that’s what I believe, but I am a man being tried severely. Some days my ideals are not so lofty. And in fact, I do not think it is against God’s will to carry out human justice on this earth. It is vengeance, or angry justice, you might say, that offends God. Therefore I have every intention of holding the people accountable that hurt my daughter, but I try to refrain from letting the anger burn inside of me.
|4. So tell me about this journey you’ve been on and how it’s changed you?
There’s a reason that the concept of justice is so important to me. I’ve experienced tragedy and injustice throughout my life. My parents separated when I was a baby. I was alienated from my own father, by my emotionally manipulative mother. This probably started my deep longing for setting the scales right.
I experienced how unfair the world was by watching my mom go through the loss of her own mother, when she was 19 and I was 3. Her despair about that resonated during my whole life.
I experienced a good deal of childhood trauma, including abuse and domestic violence. There was drug use around me and exposure to things I shouldn’t have seen. I was always wishing my dad was there to protect me.
When I was 16, my 19 year old Aunt Kari-Ann was shot to death by her husband. We were very close. She lived with us while I was growing up and was considered my sister. I think the anger at injustice really began festering then. That was a very traumatic event.
In 1992, when I was 19, a girl that I loved very much committed suicide. She was my girlfriend and we were really in love, but we had been broken up awhile when she took her life. It still really affected me. She was a beautiful young girl, who had been raped by her step dad as a kid. I saw a lot of injustice in that. Her name was Shawna Lynn Montoya.
As a teenager and young adult, I got into some bad things. I stole a lot and broke into places. I was reckless. I used drugs. I was violent and destructive. I lied and I was not on a good path until I got into the martial arts. That along with college, gave me something to put my energy into. I believe my actions and the actions of my parents is part of why my life has had so much turmoil. That is another aspect of justice. In 2 Samuel 12 of the bible, King David, a man highly favored by God lost his baby son, despite his begging God to save him. This was a result of David’s sin. We may be forgiven, but there are consequences to our actions.
I met my children’s mother in 1997 and got married in 2000. She already had Anjelica, since she is not my biological daughter. My second daughter (first biological) was born in October of 2000. I named her Justice Rae-Ann.
In 2003, my uncle David committed suicide after dealing with the injustice of having his youngest son taken from him by his ex-wife.
At least two of my step dads died senseless deaths at young ages, after very unfair lives.
In August 2009, Anjelica was manipulated by her mother into rejecting me and my family and friends. Her mother and I had separated in February 2005 and we shared custody of the three girls until Anjelica left my house in 2009, then it was just the younger two. That broke my heart. I had written in my journal that having her reject me, felt worse than if she had died, but I later found out untrue that really was.
My children’s mother was taken away from her own mother at the age of 12, and led to believe that her mother was a bad person. She never talked to her again, as far as I know. I always tried to get her to connect with her mom. She held onto that bitterness that was fed to her as a child by her father’s family.. Her mother committed suicide in June, 2009, just two months before she took Anjelica from me. Both her and I experienced childhood trauma, and in fact I have experienced far more than her, but our reaction to it has been different, because I learned about God’s love and forgiveness as a child. I learned to process the things that happened to me, even though it still took a toll on me. But the girls’ mother tended to hold that anger inside and let it really fester. That is the difference when God is involved.
In April 2010, a man came into my children’s lives. As you know, he had a very extensive criminal record that was ignored by the family courts when I tried to get custody of the girls in June 2010. His prison violations included attempted murder, assault and sex crimes, but his federal probation officer, Tomas Ramirez, here in Norfolk, Virginia, refused to testify in the custody hearings at family court. The probation officer also knew that he had only known my children’s mother for two weeks when he moved in with her and my three young daughters. I put my hope in the system to protect my children, and they failed. They had no concern for the safety of my children.
In addition, the state of Virginia allowed that man to adopt Anjelica when she was 15. He only knew her for two years. How could someone with that kind of criminal record adopt a teenager he recently met, especially given the family circumstances? They never consulted me because I was not officially on the birth certificate. Anjelica was my daughter. I was the only father she had known since she was one years old. She had my last name. I had been granted equal custody of her after the separation. She is listed as one of my children on the divorce decree. There is no question with friends and family that she was my daughter. In fact, I found an email where the man on the birth certificate gave the mother permission for me to adopt her, but the mother said that he did not, only because she wanted to collect child support from him. I had no idea she had a child support case against him. I wouldn’t have supported that.
I wish Anjelica’s biological father had connected with Anjelica. But he didn’t and so I stepped in. I would have welcomed his presence. There is nothing that can replace a loving biological father. Anjelica deserved that. That’s why I loved her as my own. She was an only child for four years, before our next daughter came along, so she was special because of that. She was our world for a long time.
Then in 2011, my mom got brain cancer, I took care of her while she was sick. The girls, including Anjelica, came out to see Gramma Sandy in Phoenix with me for a couple weeks. The girls and I actually had a really good time. Things were almost like before. My mom’s death in September 2012, shook my faith.
Six months after that, my cousin, and once best friend, Wesley Kampen, was killed. He was a fugitive recovery agent in Phoenix. He was shot in the back while arresting a man. He died right there on the street. He was good man who left behind an 18 year old son. They were really close. Wesley John and I were best friends growing up. We lived together much of our lives. We always talked about fighting evil and protecting people. Again, the concept of justice came up. Vengeance boiled up inside of me for awhile, but I soon remembered that I need to make the best of what I have and not focus on what had been lost.
While I was being tested and tried, my girl’s step dad and their mother kept the kids really busy with fun and fast times. They spoiled Anjelica and made sure she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. We hung out a few times, but it was not how it should have been. She was too busy with her mom’s life to remember her father. But then the lies began to crumble. Apparently the step dad began using drugs again and then in February 2015, he separated from the girl’s mom. They had been together for almost five years by then. On March 2, 2015, Anjelica went missing. She was missing for 38 days before her remains were found 40 miles away behind an abandoned old house. That period of my life was very hard. We were searching everywhere, passing out flyers, talking to people. I spent hours staking out shady neighborhoods looking for possible sex trafficking people. I considered that the step-dad might be involved somehow, but I knew that if he was, it wouldn’t be good so I kept considering everything else. Things got really strained while he was still out on the street. I went to confront him twice but the police intervened. It was a tense time. I could not sleep. It was like a surreal war. And I had to somehow keep it together as a dad for my girls. I could have done better. I tried really hard. I was so angry and so sad and so worried.
Almost three weeks after she went missing, the step dad was arrested and put in jail for breaking into the house of a friend of Anjelica’s and apparently planting her jacket in there to blame him. He also made threats against some of her friends that were helping in searching. He told them he had gang affiliations that would take care of them if they said anything.
The step dad also found some of Anjelica’s clothes alongside the road about 25 miles away. He confessed that he was the last to see her, but he lied about the details. Recently we learned that the police had been investigating him for abduction and murder. Two days after Anjelica went missing, the GPS in his van went to the home where she was found 38 days later. I had been taking phone calls from him in jail up until the latest information was released, trying to figure out his lies. I had to refrain myself as he referred to Anjelica as ‘his daughter’ constantly. Surely this guy couldn’t be calling me, knowing I was her father, and lying to me bold faced, just to continue his games of manipulation??
Well, there are many details we have yet to find out about what happened to Anjelica, but there is no doubt who is responsible. I don’t want to imagine why. There are rumors and speculation flying around.
So the question was – how has my journey changed me? Believe it or not, I am more humble. I am less angry. I have stronger faith in God. I am devoted to truth more than ever and find great comfort in the truth of the word of God. I try to put my obedience to God first and foremost, without compromise. During the tragedy with my daughter, I lost a good job and I stopped talking to my dad. I was persecuted for my faith by online trolls and friends of my children’s mother.
Prior to Anjelica going missing, my girls and I had been going to church and praying more than usual. I always prayed so much for Anjelica, but especially the months before her passing. I really had to trust God to protect her. I still struggle with trusting God because of that. He must have had a reason for allowing this to happen.
I have learned how important family is to God. We have roles to play, given to us by God. As men, we must be bold and protect the family unit. We are told in James 1:27 “The form of worship* that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans+ and widows+ in their tribulation,+ and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (NWT).
Some translations say “fatherless”, and to “separate” from the world.
That tells me that God is very concerned for those in broken families and it is our duty to look after them, while keeping our distance from this world. That includes our own children, when they become fatherless. We must maintain our spiritual integrity and our faith in a wicked world, so that we can employ the angels of God to protect our children when we can’t.
I have to believe that God has a good purpose and that because I have been praying and trying to be faithful, that all of this tragedy will work to honor him somehow. One purpose could be to mend the brokenness of my upbringing as a result of sin. In order to make things right and good in God’s eyes, I needed to be molded in an extreme way. Based on what I have gone through, I should be in jail, or on drugs, or dead, but I believe that my faith has carried me through and is forming me into a good man that my heavenly father can be proud of and can use.
|3. What do you do with this? How do you see God using you in this?
I just want to be a better dad and prepare my heart for being a husband again, or whatever God has in store for me. I want to overcome my depression and the insanity of my life and embrace hope in God, despite the evils of this world. I want to use my experience to help others.
|4. I want people to care about the problems in the family court and I want Christians specially to care about this. How can we educate people who don’t know about these injustices? How can we help them minister to unbelievers going thru similar issues in the family court?
Social media seems to be a great way to get information across, but it needs to go a step further. We need to be calling into radio shows and writing editorials in the newspapers. We need to hold protests at our local family courts, or start petitions and bills that can be signed by people in the vicinity of the family courts. I plan on putting flyers for a parental alienation group inside the family court waiting room, here in Norfolk, VA. There have been rallies and I know a march is scheduled in DC, but we have to be careful about allying with people who preach anger and hatred and wicked conspiracies. I believe this will cause more trouble. My mother always told me, ‘you catch more flies with honey, than vinegar”. Being as I was a very sour person, I am now mature enough to apply that principal. It’s hard sometimes, because I still have to deal with my anger over injustice.
|5. I saw on your website you are promoting two very specific changes to family court law. Tell me about them and why they are so important.
I don’t put my faith in the judicial system or the government of this world, but at this time our government has the role of determining custody, handling the adoption process, and other family matters, so I am petitioning the government to modify certain aspects of custody and step parent adoption laws. I am also asking the governor to set up an Advisory Council in order to educate the family courts on the psychological and family dynamics they need to be aware of. I am also asking the governor to set up a Regulatory Board to enforce the education of family court officials and also to handle complaints against them, as well as making aspects of court proceedings public. Like I said, I don’t put my faith in any man made kingdom, but I do feel obligated to try to sway them from harming more children.
In my case, I asked the family court to give me temporary full custody because my children’s mother had met a man who just got out of prison and let him live with her and my girls after they knew each other only two weeks. Also his 18 year old nephew was living there. I feared for the safety of my children. But the courts failed to protect my children.
There are ten things that the law sets for judges to consider when determining the ‘best interest’ of a child in custody matters. I would like to add to that list. I would like the law to require a judge to also determine the company the parent keeps. The judge should consider the length of time that parent has known the person, along with high risk factors, like young men living with daughters and criminal history, parenting history, drug abuse history, and mental health. I am sick of reading about step parents and boyfriends that have hurt or killed the children. Where was the real dad in all of this? Many times his hands are tied because of the court system.
In regards to the adoption laws, I find it unbelievable that a circuit court judge would have looked at this man’s petition to adopt Anjelica, and determined not to investigate further. I think step parent adoption should be treated like foster care adoption. There should be a mandatory background check and a more detailed petition to help the judge understand the family dynamics. Some due diligence needs to happen.
The third petition I have is another important one. I am asking the governor to set up an Advisory Council for the family courts and other government entities that influence family situations. Governors set up these kinds of councils all the time. They make sense. The council would be composed of volunteer citizens who are professionals in the fields regarding family dynamics, such as psychology, social workers, lawyers, and even parent advocates. This council would mandate that family court officials keep up to speed on the information they disperse once or twice a month. This way they can be educated on complex issues such as pathogenic parenting, parental alienation, different kinds of abuse, psychological disorders, and the ways in which people lie and manipulate the system, such as filing false reports. There needs to be some dialogue on these issues and they need to be out in the open. Currently family court officials are just lawyers, and usually not even good at that. They have very little training in family and psychological dynamics. In fact, they shouldn’t be touching custody issues with the kind of training they have. They are a wrecking ball in our families and without a strong family unit, we will fail as a society.
The second half of my request to the governor is to set up a Regulatory Board over the family court officials. Among other duties, this board can enforce the education mandate, make most aspects of court proceedings publicly available, and handle public complaints against family court officials. Right now if you complain about a guardian ad litem, no matter how egregious, it is like asking one hand to slap the other. I have had two guardians clearly violate the standards that the court has set for them, yet no action was taken and I was not even notified if my complaint was received. I might as well have flushed the complaint down the toilet. And there is no accountability. There needs to be accountability. These people are not untouchable. They are not rulers over us. They are supposed to be public servants. The guardian ad litem who represented my children in 2010, when I was trying to protect my daughters, reported the man’s criminal record just as the con man himself explained it to him, which was untruthful. He did not reach out to any sources, such as the probation officer, or victims, to verify anything. He pulled up his criminal record from a database, but didn’t consider any of the facts I told him. He failed to do his due diligence in researching this man’s history. A jury had found a true bill against this man for rape and kidnapping, but the guardian did not look into that. I guarantee that he would AND DID look into the slightest accusation against me, no matter how untruthful. In his report he scolds me for a situation where my children’s mother and her new husband approached me to physically take my 7 year old daughter away from me before I could hug her good bye, while I was visiting her at her grandma’s house, because she called and asked me to come visit, because her mom had been keeping her from visiting me during the summer. Seeing that man stand there, my reaction was papa bear protective mode. I was angry. I challenged this man to fight me. The exchange lasted about 30 seconds before they took Gracie and left. My children’s mother filed charges for assaulting her and my daughter and filed a protective order. I returned the favor by filing charges against her for assaulting my daughter when she grabbed her arm to take her from me. The case was dismissed in court. The judge (different from our custody case) literally said, “this is the most ridiculous thing I have seen in my court.” The judge scolded the mother for withholding the kids from me, yet the guardian ad litem scolds me for being angry and self-righteous and antagonistic. Meanwhile he wrote glowing remarks about this new guy just out of prison. He talked about how reformed he seemed and how aware he was of the consequences if he got into trouble. He praised him for not reacting when I confronted him that day. Worst of all, he reported his history inaccurately. This report greatly influences the judge’s decisions. I have a link to the report on my website, www.AnjelicaMarie.com, Anjelica spelled with a ‘J’.
The custody judge failed too. I presented everything to the judge in the preliminary hearing, but he just set the court hearing date for over 3 months away. No consideration for the safety of my children or the fact one daughter had not been talking to me for 10 months at that point and had suddenly allied with this new guy just out of jail. The guardian is the one to recommend temporary custody changes based on circumstances. He didn’t even respond to my emails. It was like I was shouting into outer space.
Now that man I tried to protect my children from, has brutalized them and turned their world upside down. The judge did not recognize very clear signs of pathogenic parental alienation and emotional abuse and ordered that Anjelica not be forced to visit me at all. Despite the longstanding previous order in place requiring all of the children stay with both parents for equal time. The imbecilic judge put zero value on the presence of her father in her life. He should have mandated every other weekend or something. He is a foolish man, and I dread to think of the lives he has destroyed because he thinks he knows what is best for families . I wish to expose this decision he has made so that he can see the error in his discretion. His name is Joseph P. Massey.
All of these petitions can be found at www.AnjelicaMarie.com.
In addition to these petitions, I also want to help to empower alienated parents. I am part of an organization called SPEAK Worldwide, which is “Stop Parental Emotional Abuse of Kids – Worldwide”. Monica Giglio has organized educational groups to be formed throughout the nation, where group moderators can be found, in order to teach parents about the dynamics of parental alienation and to have a forum to discuss things. That website is www.SPEAKW.org
Eventually I also want to create a mountain retreat, where parents and children can unite and bond in a rugged mountainous setting, with life skills workshops taught by volunteers. I have been planning this retreat for years. I hope to get it going soon. I’m waiting to see if my daughters are going to start talking to me again.