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Cummings v. Bishop

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 23, 2019

JERRY ISRAEL CUMMINGS
v.
SHARI BISHOP

          APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 2018-3534 HONORABLE LILYNN CUTRER, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          Hillary L. Nixon Law Office of Hillary L. Nixon, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Shari Bishop

          David M. Hudson Larry A. Roach, Inc. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Jerry Israel Cummings

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          VAN H. KYZAR JUDGE.

         The defendant, Shari Bishop, appeals from the trial court judgment granting a protective order in favor of the plaintiff, Jerry Israel Cummings. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         DISCUSSION OF THE RECORD

         This matter is a companion case to David Michael Craig v. Shari Bishop, 19-166 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/23/19), ___ So.3d ___, which was rendered by this court this same day.

         The parties, Jerry Israel Cummings and Shari Bishop, were married in Calcasieu Parish on November 10, 1996. Four children were born of their marriage: Israel Josiah, [1] date of birth September 10, 1997; Benjamin Taylor, date of birth June 3, 2000; E.F.C., date of birth February 5, 2004; and S.E.C., date of birth May 11, 2007.[2] D.M.C., date of birth November 7, 2011, was also born during Jerry's marriage to Shari; after which Jerry filed a petition to disavow paternity on November 22, 2011.[3] After filing a petition for ex parte custody, Jerry was granted temporary custody of his four children on July 23, 2010. Following a hearing on September 20, 2010, the trial court rendered judgment based on the parties' stipulations, which ordered mental health evaluations of the parties and granted Shari supervised visitation with the children. Thereafter, Shari filed a petition for divorce against Jerry. Although the trial court record of these proceedings was introduced into the record as an exhibit, it does not contain a judgment of divorce. However, based on Jerry's testimony during a custody hearing in proceedings between Shari and David, he and Shari were divorced in December 2013.[4] Subsequent to their divorce, Shari married David on July 4, 2015.

         On August 23, 2019, Jerry filed a petition seeking protection from abuse, which is the subject matter of this appeal. In his petition, filed individually and on behalf of his minor children, E.F.C. and S.E.C., Jerry alleged that Shari slapped, punched, shoved, stalked, threatened with bodily harm, threatened his life, threatened him with a weapon, abused the children, and attempted to have him killed. He alleged that the most recent abuse occurred on July 23, 2018, when Shari did the following:

[A]ttempt to have Jerry Cummings murdered by a third party. On this date, [E.F.C.] (daughter of the parties) saw Shari at the L'Auberge Casino with a man she did not know. [E.F.C.] was introduced to this man by Shari as a friend, and [E.F.C.] was told by Shari and by this man that Shari was going to have this man and his friends kill Jerry and David Craig (Shari's most recent husband) as revenge for prior incidents of abuse, including incidents of ritual satanic abuse, which Shari has repeatedly alleged were committed by Jerry and David. [E.F.C.] has repeatedly denied such abuse ever occurred, and she denied it again on that date. She was told that the man and his friends were ready and willing to kill Jerry and David. A criminal investigation is ongoing regarding this solicitation of murder by Shari against both Jerry and David.

         Jerry further alleged the following past incidents of abuse by Shari against him as follows:

On multiple occasions in recent months, following the custody trial between David Craig and Shari Bishop, Shari has attempted to have Jerry murdered by multiple third parties. [E.F.C.] has spoken on multiple occasions with Shari and with a former boyfriend of Shari named Joshua Martin, and they have both spoken to [E.F.C.] about their plans to murder Jerry or have him murdered by others. They have also spoken to [E.F.C.] about plans to murder David or have him murdered by others. [E.F.C.] has been told that Jerry and David will be killed as revenge for prior incidents of abuse, including incidents of ritual satanic abuse, which Shari has repeatedly alleged were committed by Jerry and David. [E.F.C.] has repeatedly denied such abuse ever occurred. It is believed that Shari has previously attempted to seriously harm, and possibly kill, Israel Cummings (child of the parties, now an adult) by arsenic poisoning. Israel became seriously ill following an incident with Shari and he later tested positive for arsenic poisoning. This was testified to by multiple witnesses during the recent custody trial between David and Shari. It is also believed that Shari has previously attempted to seriously harm, and possibly kill, David by arsenic poisoning. David previously became seriously ill during the marriage with symptoms indicative of arsenic poisoning, and since the final separation of David and Shari he has tested positive for arsenic poisoning and has been receiving medical treatment. A criminal investigation into this poisoning is ongoing and Shari is the only known person of interest. This was also testified to by multiple witnesses during the recent custody trial between the parties.
Over the past several years, while David and Shari were together, Shari spoke repeatedly about her desire to murder Jerry. She also asked David to kill Jerry for her at times. She has a long history of making false, and often completely unbelievable, allegations of abuse and criminal behavior against others. Shari has a long history of unstable and unpredictable behavior, and she has exhibited extremely poor judgment on numerous occasions.
During the prior relationship and marriage between Jerry and Shari, Shari was physically violent and abusive on numerous occasions. She yelled, broke various objects, threw various objects at Jerry, slapped Jerry, punched Jerry, shoved Jerry, and abused the parties' children by beating them with wire clothes hangers. Since the final separation of Jerry and Shari, Shari has stalked Jerry, threatened to kill him, threatened to have him killed. She has also asked Jerry to kill at least one other person before, namely Danny Meyers.

         A separate petition was filed by David against Shari on the same date, which requested a protective order based on the same primary factual scenario alleged by Jerry herein.

         On August 23, 2018, the trial court granted an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of Jerry. The TRO ordered that Shari not to abuse, harass, assault, stalk, follow, track, monitor, or threaten Jerry, E.F.C., or S.E.C.; not to contact them by any means, except for court-ordered visitation; not to go within 100 yards of Jerry or the children, except for court-ordered visitation; to stay away from Jerry's place of employment and the children's school; not to damage any of their belongings or property or shut off their utilities, phone service, or mail delivery, or interfere with their living conditions; and not to interfere with the physical custody of the children. A hearing was scheduled in the matter for September 7, 2018. A second TRO was issued by the trial court on September 7, 2018, effective through November 2, 2018, with a hearing set for October 29, 2018.

         This matter was consolidated for trial purposes with David's request for a protective order. On October 31, 2018, the trial court heard testimony from E.F.C., Jerry, David, Shari, and Shari's mother, Rhonda Bishop.

         The primary factual scenario supporting both petitions was recounted by E.F.C., based on a meeting between her and Shari on July 23, 2018, at the L'auberge Casino. E.F.C. testified that she met Shari and her grandmother, Mrs. Bishop, at L'auberge, despite the fact that she knew she needed her father's permission to see them. She stated that Shari had texted her that she and Mrs. Bishop were going to the casino and asked if she wanted to meet them there. She said that although she was staying with a friend, she was picked up by Mrs. Bishop and taken to the casino. She initially stated that both she and her friend were picked up by Mrs. Bishop, but then later claimed that her friend did not go with her. She further claimed that after visiting with Shari and Mrs. Bishop, she planned to meet up with her friend, who was spending the night at the casino with her mother.

         E.F.C. testified that after she and Mrs. Bishop arrived at the casino, they ate and then walked around. She stated that they met Shari when they walked in front of a bar. She stated that Shari walked up to them, hugged her, and then pulled her into the bar. According to E.F.C., Shari was drunk. E.F.C. stated that Shari introduced her to a man, whom she said was a friend, and they sat down at a table. She stated that Mrs. Bishop did not accompany them into the bar.

         E.F.C. testified that the man first asked her if she, her siblings, and D.M.C. were being abused by their fathers and then stated that he was in a biker gang and that he could have Jerry and David hurt or killed if they were being abused. E.F.C. stated that Shari was there for part of this conversation, but that she walked away after advising her to tell the truth about the abuse. E.F.C. testified that after Shari left, she told the man that none of the allegations were true. She stated that the man then asked her if Shari was telling him the truth or if she was crazy. E.F.C. said that she replied that Shari was not telling the truth. E.F.C. testified that at this point Mrs. Bishop walked up and told the man, "Well, I know that something's happening[.]" E.F.C. stated that she replied, "No, nothing's happening. It's not like that[.]" E.F.C. said that after these comments, she left the bar with Mrs. Bishop and then later met up with her friend at the casino. She stated that she did not see Shari again that night.

         E.F.C. testified that her conversation with the man lasted from fifteen to thirty minutes and that she felt threatened by the conversation. She stated that she thought Shari had said that she had known the man a long time. She further stated that both Shari and the man were drunk. E.F.C. testified that she believed Shari was capable of having Jerry and David harmed and that she definitely believed that Shari asked this man to harm them because of her allegations of abuse.

         E.F.C. testified that she told her father about this conversation, when he picked her up from her friend's home the next day. However, she admitted that she told him that she and Shari had met up accidently because she knew he would be mad at her.

         E.F.C. further testified that Shari asked her to recant her testimony from the child custody hearing in which Jerry was granted custody of her and her siblings. She stated that she was pressured by Shari, Joshua Martin, Shari's former boyfriend, and his daughter to contact Shari's attorney. She said that they threatened to stop communicating with her unless she called the attorney. E.F.C. testified that when she spoke to the attorney, she was told that she would have to admit that she lied about Shari giving her alcohol when she was with her. She stated that she did not recall telling the attorney that she had embellished a little on the stand or that she was worried about leaving her younger brother.

         E.F.C. further recounted conversations she had the previous summer with Mr. Martin, who lived in Florida. She stated that he had been told by Shari that she and D.M.C. were being abused by their fathers and that both he and Shari had said that he wanted to protect her by getting rid of Jerry. E.F.C. testified that near the end of his relationship with Shari, Mr. Martin asked her if Shari's allegations were true and then said that he did not want to be with Shari if she was lying. E.F.C. stated that Mr. Martin told her that he would kill Jerry and David if the allegations were true. E.F.C. stated that she believed that Mr. Martin's desire to kill them was based both on Shari's request that he do so and his own feelings about the alleged abuse.

         E.F.C. said that Mr. Martin claimed that either he or his friends would kill Jerry and David. She stated that he told her that he had friends who lived behind Jerry's home in Ragley, Louisiana. She claimed that he also told her that he had stalked both Jerry and David at their homes and that he was armed with a gun while outside of Jerry's home. E.F.C. testified that she felt threatened by this conversation and that she told Mr. Martin that Shari's allegations were not true.

         E.F.C. testified that Shari kept advising her to tell Mr. Martin the truth about the abuse. Although she never heard Mr. Martin and Shari, together, say that they intended to kill Jerry and David, she stated that he admitted that Shari asked him to do so. She said that Shari had, in the past, said that she wanted to kill Jerry and David and that she was feeding Mr. Martin lies about them. At some point, E.F.C. testified that she became scared and told Jerry about her conversations with Mr. Martin. She stated that she took Mr. Martin's threats seriously the last time she spoke to him.

         Jerry testified that he filed his petition for the protective order based on E.F.C.'s meeting with Shari at L'auberge Casino. He stated that she claimed that she had accidently bumped into Shari and Mrs. Bishop while she was there with her friend. She told him that Shari pulled her aside and introduced her to a man, who asked her if she and D.M.C. were being abused. He said that the man told E.F.C. that if the allegations of abuse were true, he had people who could take care of him and David that night.

         Jerry testified that he learned of this incident the next day, but that E.F.C. initially told him that her meeting with Shari was accidental. However, after he filed a police report, he stated that she admitted that the meeting was planned. Jerry felt that E.F.C. initially lied about the logistics of the meeting because she knew she would be punished if he learned of their meeting. Jerry testified that Shari knew she was only allowed supervised visitation with E.F.C. pursuant to the custody order. He admitted that he had allowed her unsupervised visitation while she was married to David, but said that he stopped this visitation after they separated.

         Jerry testified that E.F.C. also informed him of threats against him and David, which were voiced by Mr. Martin during conversations he had with her the previous June or July. He said that E.F.C. communicated with both Mr. Martin and his daughter and that she said that she felt pressured by both to admit that he was abusing her. Jerry testified that E.F.C. reported that Mr. Martin promised to take care of him if the abuse allegations were true. He stated that E.F.C. further reported that Mr. Martin told her that he had driven by their home several times, and Shari told her, "You don't know how many times I've driven by your home." He said that E.F.C. only told him about these threats because she felt that she had failed to convince Mr. Martin that Shari was lying. Jerry testified that he reported these threats to law enforcement in both Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes, but was told that he should seek a restraining order. He said that he did not seek a restraining order because he was not represented by counsel at that point.

         Jerry testified regarding various acts of physical abuse committed by Shari during their marriage. He stated that Shari slapped, punched, and shoved him, threatened him with bodily harm, and threatened his life. He said that she threw a knife, a vase, and a frying pan at him and that she hit him with a coffee cup. He said that during their custody fight, she told him that she would do whatever it took to take care of him. Jerry testified that he learned that she frequently drove by his home on the days she visited the children, and he stated that a third party told him that Shari believed that she would be justified in killing him based on ...


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