The mother of Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs, who killed his girlfriend and himself, leaving his baby daughter in state custody as an orphan, said relatives should be involved in the girl’s life.
Cheryl Shepherd of West Babylon, N.Y., testified at hearings to decide who will get custody of the 9-month-old child of Chiefs player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. Perkins’ cousin, Sophie Perkins of Pflugerville, Texas, also is seeking custody of the girl.
Shepherd was staying with her son and his girlfriend at the couple’s Kansas City home at time of the Dec. 1 shootings, and she testified Tuesday that she had a close, loving relationship with Kasandra Perkins.
Shepherd initially also sought to become the conservator of her son’s estate, which would put her in charge of possibly millions of dollars, but family members on both sides agreed to have a third party handle the finances.
That left Zoey’s custody the only thing at stake in the hearings, which began Tuesday morning and are scheduled for three days.
Before Shepherd took the stand, Carrie Contey, a human development specialist from Austin, Texas, testified that it would not be healthy for custody of the girl to be split equally between family members who live 1,700 miles apart.
She said research indicates that babies need a primary caregiver with whom to build a secure attachment and that having several different people caring for the girl for long periods of time could stifle that kind of bonding.
“That seems like a lot of stress to put on a little person,” she said.
Shepherd was the only other person on the witness stand Tuesday in Jackson County Probate Court and is expected to resume testimony Wednesday.
She said it would be in Zoey’s best interest to move to her New York home, where she has at least three dozen relatives living within 20 minutes from her home.
Shepherd described how she had become close to Kasandra Perkins over the four years she was dating Belcher, with the couple frequently visiting New York and Shepherd coming to Kansas City for every Chiefs home game.
She said she thought Sophie Perkins also would be able to provide a loving home for Zoey, and despite what Contey said about splitting time between primary caregivers, she wouldn’t have a problem with sharing custody.