Parental rights trial resumes today

Girl found naked outside last spring

ESCANABA — A civil trial resumes today in Delta County to decide the rights of parents of two girls whose Rapid River home was found to be unsafe and unsanitary the day one child was found lying naked outside in the snow last spring.

Delta County Probate Court Judge Robert Goebel Jr. presided over the case in June and will hear more witness testimony throughout the week — including psychological reports on the family — before deciding if there are legal grounds for the parental rights to be taken away from Michael Lavoie, 31, and Tammy Fryer, 30.

The parents’ rights were terminated last spring due to reports of their home not being fit for their two daughters to live in as well as physical neglect and improper supervision of the two girls who are both developmentally delayed.

Though social services had prior concerns with the family, action was taken to remove the two children — ages 3 and 5 then — from the home on March 17 when officials investigated the family’s living conditions.

The investigation was conducted after a neighbor notified police he had found the youngest daughter, now 4 years old, lying naked in a ditch. The neighbor’s dog had alerted its owner about the child being outside that morning.

According to reports filed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Delta County Sheriff’s Department, the family’s home was described as being unfit for the children to live in due to filth, clutter and unsanitary conditions.

The reports stated the home was littered with food, garbage, diapers, cigarette butts, clothing and other household items. Both human and animal feces were also present and rodents were suspected to be in the house. The residence was also under construction posing additional safety concerns.

The children’s court-appointed guardian, Jayne Mackowiak, filed a petition in April to have the parental rights taken away from Lavoie and Fryer. The two children have been under the care of foster parents since they were removed from their home in March.

Fryer’s attorney John M.A. Bergman, Lavoie’s attorney Katie Clark, and Delta County Prosecutor Philip Strom are seeking reunification of the family in a safe and sanitary home environment under court supervision.

Following initial testimony presented during the dispositional hearing in probate court June 7-9, the court proceedings were postponed until this week to accommodate the schedule of medical professionals from downstate who conducted psychological evaluations of the family members.

During the hearings in June, witnesses who testified included the parents, relatives, medical professionals, DHHS workers, a teacher, and neighbors of the family.

According to testimony in June, the parents have undergone counseling, began parenting classes, and followed recommendations from the health department regarding their home.

— — —

Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,