Hours before a father and his young son were found dead in a murder-suicide at a Fort Lauderdale condo, the boy's mother had sought to have him removed from the father's custody, saying he had been stalking her and sending her threatening text messages, new court records show.
Attorneys for mother Alison Kessler had filed the emergency motion Friday to have 4-year-old Greyson Kessler removed from the care of his father, 47-year-old John Stacey.
Hours later, around 10 p.m. Friday, police found the bodies of Stacey and Greyson in Stacey's Las Olas by the River condo unit.
Fort Lauderdale Police on Monday confirmed that the deaths of Stacey and Greyson appear to a be a murder-suicide, saying a preliminary investigation showed Stacey shot and killed his son before turning the gun on himself.
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Police believe the shootings happened sometime on Thursday.
The emergency pick-up order, which would have required police to take the boy from his father, was denied by a judge. According to the Sun Sentinel, the judge said the motion "does not present an emergency as it addresses the issue of child visitation."
In a statement, the 17th Judicial Circuit said judges are prohibited from commenting on pending proceedings.
"The 17th Judicial Circuit is aware of the tragic situation reported in the news over the weekend. Judges are prohibited from commenting on pending proceedings and cannot discuss the specifics of any orders," the statement read. "It cannot be stressed enough that if someone has reason to believe a child or any other person is in danger, they should call law enforcement --- in all instances. We extend to the family and mother of this horrific event our deepest condolences."
According to the motion, Kessler and Stacey had agreed to a timesharing schedule but when Kessler realized Stacey hadn't taken the boy to school on Thursday or Friday, she reached out to him but he didn't answer calls or texts.
Kessler wrote that Stacey had "consistently stalked and harassed" her through text and voice messages, and said the threats and comments increased once Stacey believed that Kessler had a boyfriend.
"You are not allowed to date other people. It's either me or no one. Or I will remove child support and quintuple text volume. The choice is yours, Ali," Stacey wrote in a May 14 text message, according to the court papers.
On May 18, he sent a vulgar message calling Kessler a "vile pig," the motion said.
"You get what you deserve. You're not even human," Stacey texted, according to the motion. "You deserve to have your head separated from your body. But I am not the violent type. God will deal with you."
Kessler had become concerned that Stacey had placed a tracker on her car based on comments he made about places she was going, including when she went to a court house on May 19.
"Clearly you are attempting to take legal action against me if you are hanging out by the court house. What is the status?" Stacey texted, according to the court papers. "You prob should tell me now rather than me wait to find out otherwise."
The next day, Kessler said she found a tracker on her car, which she reported to police, the motion said.
Kessler also said Stacey had been a member of a cult called "the Moonies" for five years, but hadn't received therapy to address his time spent in the cult, the court records said.
"The Father's increased erratic behavior is very concerning given his threats of dismemberment, tracking the Mother's every move, and now his disappearance with the parties' child during the Mother's timesharing," the motion read.
Fort Lauderdale Police said they're still investigating.
"This is a parent’s worst nightmare. We understand the mother and family of the child victim are feeling an immense amount of grief at this time. We want to ensure them, and our community, we will be conducting a full investigation into this incident," police said in a statement.
In a statement Monday, Kessler's family said they are devastated by Greyson's death.
"Greyson was the kindest, smartest, most animated kid we have ever known. Greyson’s mother, Alison Kessler, did everything she could to keep her child safe from harm. We feel that the system failed us at every level, from her attorney to the police department, to the court system," the statement read. "There were many red flags exhibited by John Stacey that were never acted upon, even though Alison reported his bizarre and threatening behavior and went through all the proper channels. This tragedy could have been prevented if proper action had been taken to help Alison and Greyson. Greyson was the light of our lives, and the world is darker without him in it."