The bitter truth
Judge awards guardianship of Kolten Slover to his maternal grandparents
The testimony of Court Appointed Special Advocate Carol Reynolds was characterized incorrectly in last week's cover story, "Suffer the Children." Reynolds agreed with the Court's ruling that Mary Slover is "depraved" and "unfit," but disagreed with the Court's position on visitation. Mary Slover should continue to have supervised visits with Kolten Slover, Reynolds said.
Just as we went to press last week, Macon County Associate Judge Scott B. Diamond published the end to our cover story -- "Suffer the Children," chronicling the custody fight over 10-year-old Kolten Slover. Diamond's ruling was exactly what courtroom observers expected: Overriding the pleas of Department of Child and Family Services as well as Kolten's psychotherapist and court-appointed attorney, the judge handed Kolten over to his maternal grandparents, Larry and Donna Hearn.
Kolten is the only child of Karyn Hearn Slover, a Decatur beauty whose 1996 murder was shockingly brutal -- she was shot seven times and her body dismembered. Five years later, her ex-husband, Michael Slover Jr., and his parents, Michael Slover Sr. and Jeanette Slover, were convicted of Karyn's murder.
Although the case against the Slovers relied on circumstantial evidence, and the three have always maintained their innocence, Diamond issued a series of decisions declaring that yet another member of the Slover family -- Mary Slover, daughter of Michael Sr. and Jeanette -- helped conceal the homicide, if not participate in it directly.
Mary Slover adopted Kolten in 1999, but this month, Diamond ruled her "depraved" and "unfit," then terminated her parental rights.
Diamond's written orders (which, oddly, misspelled Karyn Slover's name at least 18 times) re-asserted sentiments he had made in the courtroom during the hearings: that Kolten must be safeguarded from anyone who believes his father and paternal grandparents might be innocent. That logic ruled out not only Mary Slover but also her cousin, Kellie Crnko, who with her husband, Tony Crnko, petitioned the court for guardianship of Kolten. Kolten had told Diamond that if he couldn't live with Mary, he wanted to live with the Crnkos, who testified they would continue bringing the child to visit the Hearns. Diamond did not believe them.
"The Crnkos have become a Trojan stalking horse for the Slovers," Diamond wrote. "They too believe the Slovers did not commit the murder and that Mary Slover was not involved in the concealment of the homicide. They would continue to feed the minor [Kolten] lies and untruths and no doubt cut off visitation with the Hearns contrary to their assertions which the Court could not then rectify."
In conclusion, Diamond wrote, "It is in the best interest of the minor that he be raised by the Hearns so he will know the truth of his background."
Kolten went to live with the Hearns last Thursday. DCFS workers told the Crnkos and Mary Slover that Kolten packed away all cards, letters and toys his paternal relatives had given him, because he was convinced the Hearns would confiscate the items. Their lawyer did not return a call asking for comment, but the Hearns told the Decatur Herald & Review that they are "giddy as a couple of kids" about having Kolten.
Mary Slover says Kolten probably appears to be making a healthy adjustment to his new situation.
"I know him well enough to know he's trying to be strong and not show his emotions. He told me before he wouldn't ever let anybody see him cry," Mary says, "but that just makes me worry about him more."