Archive for September, 2019

Who is Edgar Egbert, the Madison County Shooter?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Last week, Deputy Brad Sullivan of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department was shot through the head with an AR-15 style rifle after police deployed stop sticks to prevent a speeding Jeep from injuring the public on Highway 16 near Canton.  It all stemmed from a domestic situation that resulted in a kidnapping, according to officials with Madison County. While the details have yet to fully emerge, we are all praying for his recovery while in the line of duty. He is a true hero for protecting the public.  God bless him. So many questions linger, but the primary suspect, Edgar James Egbert, is not saying anything, or at least hasn’t in his court appearances while being denied bond. He is probably wise to remain silent.

I know Edgar.  I was his divorce attorney in 2017-2018.  While I am not his biggest fan, he deserves a fair hearing despite his alleged actions.  Edgar is the father of five precious kids. He is now remarried. His new wife was incredibly excited when he popped the question.  That was barely a year ago. His life has been complex, especially after a divorce that had no easy end in sight. They rarely do.   

One of my first experiences with Edgar occurred shortly before Christmas 2017 at the Madison Chancery Court.  Judge Cynthia Brewer held a temporary hearing (which I often refer to as a “stop-gap” measure) and nothing particularly unusual transpired.  Visitation was addressed, some custody and child support was ordered as well. Edgar’s eldest child was about 13 at that time. He had moved to Georgia with his mom and four siblings a few months prior.  My initial read on Edgar was actually quite positive. I felt strongly that he had a soft heart.

After the hearing, Edgar went to his black Jeep, the one involved in the chase last week, and retrieved several presents for his kids.  He approached his son, who is a tall, handsome, quiet young man, and, smiling, handed him several gifts for he and his four sisters. Edgar was calm.  He seemed very caring, and I nearly teared up because I could feel the pain he was in at that moment. He had not seen his kids in months. I appreciated his gesture.  His eldest son said nothing. It was not clear to me whether this was an alienated child or one rightfully bitter at his dad. What I witnessed later made me form a fairly clear opinion.  

At trial several months later, details began to emerge.  I represented Edgar because I truly did, and do still believe that he missed and loved his babies.  My heart went out to him. The tragic events of September, 2019 seem to have appeared out of nowhere.  Although I could see his frustrations were mounting as a displaced dad, I did not see a cop-shooter in the making.  He did, and still does love those children. I am sure of it. Even though, if found guilty, there is no excuse on earth for his behavior, I wonder to myself if it all could have been prevented.  There are no easy answers.

I recently saw that, since my representation of Edgar, he has fallen far behind on child support payments.  His ex-wife, dejected and appearing beaten down during trial, does not work. She home schools the children.  She is reliant upon the good-will of others and her church to survive. So are the kids. Edgar was ordered to pay about $1,100. per month in support.  That’s about $220 per child. Any of you reading this can do the math. Fifty bucks a week doesn’t get a child far. And that amount was not being paid. Attorney’s fees have since mounted for he and his ex-wife.  This event has altered too many innocent lives. He was likely facing incarceration for the contempt that was imminent. There was really no path short of winning the lottery to solve his money problems, they grew exponentially and no end was in sight.  It is hard to ignore the financial roots that grew into this nightmare.  

This is a tragedy for too many reasons.  I know Brad Sullivan, if only vaguely. We must never forget that he likely will never be quite the same, but we can pray and hope for he and his family.  A headshot from any firearm (.223 Remington is more powerful than almost all handgun rounds) is incredibly horrific. It is amazing he is alive. He is one tough cop.   

Edgar’s wife and kids are also victims.  They will likely never have the present love of dad again.  He may very well still love them, but it is tough to see that love being easily reciprocated.  Edgar may also be a victim of his own missteps. While I want it clear that he deserves the presumption of innocence, the benefit of the doubt, the facts do not bear well for him at this point in my estimation.

While I cannot share every detail, I will say that the testimony regarding Edgar’s violent tendencies and drug abuse, marijuana in particular, has left me on one side of the legalization debate.  I also have formed a better understanding of the emotional turmoil a divorce can cause. A parent moving far, far away to escape an unhappy marriage is equivalent to a domestic nuclear explosion. The emotions are difficult to handle.  The pain is palpable, even to the attorneys.  

In the end, I can only ask that you pray not only for Brad, but for the children and family of Edgar Egbert and even Edgar himself.  It is a shame that this has happened and we cannot turn back time. Hopefully we can all learn something about the value of our personal relationships. When all the dust clears, hopefully we will love the ones we are with, even if just a little bit more.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family Attorney.  He was admitted in 2004 to the Mississippi Bar.

Modification Mayhem; How to Steer Clear

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Child custody modification cases are always challenging for a variety of reasons.  First, it is important to recognize that Chancellors are inclined not to “rock the boat” by making drastic decisions about child placement without very good reasons.  They, as they should, need a parent seeking modification to present overwhelming reasons for a sudden change that affects every aspect of a child’s life.  Haphazard, swift decisions regarding children are frowned upon and avoided at all costs. 

I want to focus on a common scenario which occurs and attempt to illustrate the divergent paths it presents.  Quite often, a child turns 12 and is able to voice a preference to the court about where they want to live.  Although they do not get to “choose” (a common misconception), their voice plays a critical role in triggering and potentially effectuating a child-custody claim.  Although the maturity level of the child is not a technical factor in the weight of their preference, it will always play a critical role in the outcome of the modification claim.

I want to share with you a custody horror story, at least from the perspective of a former client.  Often the best lessons are had by failure, not success.  Many years ago, I was hired to prosecute a child custody claim in Rankin County, Mississippi on behalf of a mom whose son had recently turned 12.  We all met at my office and the child was quite clear about the strength of his desire to live with his mom.  I did not question his sincerity for a moment. 

Fast forward several months and we finally have our day in court at a final hearing (trial).  I called the young man to the stand and he performed as I expected.  When my opposing counsel had his shot at making his case, the child fell apart.  It went something like this:  “Young man, why is it that you want to live with your mom all of the sudden?”.  A fair question, right?  The boy then said, more or less, “My dad makes me go to bed at 10 o’clock and eat grilled chicken and vegetables.  I hate vegetables.  When I am with my mom she lets me do pretty much whatever I want.  I can have as much pizza as I want and I can play video games while she’s busy doing other stuff.  My dad is just too strict.”  Whew.  I heard the sound of my case deflate right in front of me.  The odds of winning were nil.  My client was upset and so was I, but he was just a kid after all.

I have seen first-hand how children will attempt to please both parents.  I have had clients hire me on modifications of custody only to realize later that their child was telling their ex that they wanted to stay with them.  Kids have a natural defense mechanism to make both parents happy.  They will tell both that they want to be with them.  It borders on dishonesty, but for the love of God, they are only kids and do not understand adult problems.  This is the way that they cope.  It is frustrating and can cost a client several wasted dollars, but nonetheless I understand the plight of the children torn between two parents that they dearly love.  We must, as the adults in the room, understand how to avoid this mayhem in the first place.  Our children deserve it. 

My advice is simple.  The mature children are going to be far more likely to stay with the parent they prefer.  I doubt many of them are 12.  Once a child has consistently voiced a mature, rational desire to stay with you, consider speaking to a lawyer about a change of custody.  Chancellors are privy to the fact that children are not always able to decide what is best for them.  You can avoid wasting thousands on a failed modification claim by allowing your child to come to their own conclusion. Be patient and kind.  Remember that they are feeling pressure from every direction.  And in the end, respect them and their innocence.  One day they will face adult problems.  It is your job, as a parent, to make it later than sooner.

Matthew Poole is a single father and Jackson, Mississippi Custody and Divorce Attorney with 16 years of experience.  He has managed over 1,300 domestic cases.