Custody of boy saved by nanny made permanent

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Judge rules J.B. Hawes will be the custodial guardian of Aden

By Lisa King

The little boy who escaped a fire when his nanny rescued him in the middle of the night now has a permanent parent.


Shelby County Family Court Judge John David Myles granted sole custody of Aden Allen Hawes, 5, to Jobby “J. B.” Hawes, the man who has raised the boy from infancy.

In a decision handed down May 7, Myles gave the child’s mother, Dazurae White Blankenship, visitation rights, but he also ordered her to pay child support to Hawes.

The pair have been in a custody dispute since 2008 that culminated March 23 in a hearing in Family Court during which Hawes and Blankenship aggressively accused each other of being unfit to raise the child.

Blankenship is a recovering drug addict who had given Hawes temporary custody of her baby when he was 3 days old.

The child’s biological father Michael Gray  “has not made any appearance in this matter,” court documents said.

Hawes added that he considers himself the child’s true father.

“He is my son,” he said. “I gave him his name, and I have been there for him every single day of his life.

“People who say I’m not his father don’t understand what it really means to be a father.”

Blankenship, who has recently moved into her own apartment after being released from a drug rehab program, told The Sentinel-News Thursday that she intends to appeal the court’s order.

“I will never stop fighting for my son,” she said.


Criminal histories

In his written order, Myles spent 12 pages detailing why he ruled in favor of Hawes, including an examination of the criminal histories of both Hawes and Blankenship.

Hawes was convicted of burglary in Texas when he was a teen in 1983 and “complied with the restitution and community service,” the order says. He also pleaded guilty to DUI in March 2005, and admitted possessing a firearm after his burglary conviction but told the court he had not owned one in recent years.

The order said, “While Mr. Hawes’ crimes are certainly not minor, they pale by comparison both in time and severity to those of Ms. White [Blankenship].”

Charges against her include “numerous counts of burglary, bail jumping and forgery” and jail sentences.

Blankenship was incarcerated when she was pregnant with Aden in 2004, having been sentenced to 5 years in prison in 2003 on burglary charges, but her sentence was probated.

Then in 2004 her probation was revoked, and she was ordered to serve the 5 years, plus an additional year on each of the other charges. She was paroled again in 2006 but violated the conditions of her parole when she was arrested in the summer of 2008. She later was  released to house arrest.

Blankenship said she does not understand why the court was so brief in discussing Hawes’ criminal history.

“I am just amazed at how they made my criminal history look and made his look like it didn’t exist,” she said.

Myles’ order also detailed Blankenship’s long history of drug abuse, which included cocaine, marijuana, hypnotics and sedatives.

The report said she admitted that she was spending as much as $8,000 a month on drugs and using cocaine almost every day when she was admitted to Chrysalis House, a residential home for chemically dependent women, in May 2009,

She also was seven months pregnant at that time and now has a 9-month-old daughter.


Custody challenges

In 2007, Hawes asked the court to have Blankenship’s visitation rights suspended because she had not been providing drug screens and her whereabouts were unknown.

The court acquiesced.

Aden continued to live with Hawes, and more than a year and a half later, in October 2008,  Blankenship again asked the court for visitation, which was granted, with the stipulation that it be supervised.

Hawes petitioned for sole custody in November 2008, and Blankenship did likewise in July 2009.

Myles’ order states that Blankenship has not held steady employment and also acknowledges that Hawes’ tent rental business has not been as profitable as it once was and that he lost his home, first to foreclosure, then to fire.

He and Aden now live in an apartment in Shelbyville.


‘Stable, loving home’

Blankenship had charged that Hawes was sexually abusing Aden, but social workers and a police detective who testified said they saw no evidence of any sort of abuse.

Myles wrote, “While Mr. Hawes has suffered some financial reversals and lost his home in a fire [in March], he has provided a stable and loving home for Aden. While this court sincerely hopes that Ms. White [Blankenship] will be able to control her addiction going forward, it is not willing to bet Aden’s future on that possibility.”

The order adds that even though both parties have made poor decisions, Hawes at least took Aden’s needs into account “to a far greater extent” than did Blankenship, who said she is astounded that the court would order her to pay child support.

“According to his tax returns, he made six figures last year, but he is almost broke now,” she said. “I’m on welfare, but I pay my bills.”

Hawes said he is grateful that the court decided the way it did.

“I thank God that [KSP] Detective [Mitch] Harris and the social workers saw through their lies, and that I have been vindicated,” he said. “I do feel sorry for the biological relatives, but just as God brought Aden into this world, he is protecting him now.”