Family Law Costs Lives - Family Law Costs Lives.html

Jim Untershine, GZS of LB, 04-16-02

A case for shared parenting and realistic child support may come in the wake of another family tragedy.

The limited information that was provided by newspaper articles regarding the suicide of Tomas Bahena, the murder of his son Christopher, and the attempted murder of his daughters Esther and Jacqueline, may allow us to identify a common denominator in this case of misdirected anguish.

Another breadwinner and loving parent was stripped of his possessions, removed from his children, and sentenced to financial insolvency. The time line that follows this discussion describes the events that transpired in Tomas Bahena's struggle to survive the heaping helping of family law injustice that is forced down the throat of many.

The take home pay of a public school janitor (although not disclosed) may yield a lucrative $30,000/yr. gross income or maybe $22,500/yr. net income. After 40% is taken for child support only $13,500/yr. remains. To get a picture of what Tomas was left to work with, we can compute a take home pay of $260/wk. The rule of thumb that determines the amount of rent that a person can afford limits Tomas to rent an apartment for $260/mo.

Tomas was forced to live in poverty, while desperately attempting to provide parental support and guidance to his children. Despite his courageous efforts, the oldest daughter and son are prevailed upon by law enforcement and were sucked up by social services.

Fathers that are thrown into family law hardship rarely cry out for help. Fathers often fear they will be judged as weak since they feel that others can handle this fate. If I had a chance to give him advice it would be "Forget about prosperity and concentrate on damage control and work to bring down the system".

Without the clarity to identify the common denominator of a problem, sometimes desperation can get the better of us. Nobody could possibly justify or condone taking the life of a child with a fabricated syndrome or a mysterious compulsion that effect only heterosexual taxpayers that dare to raise children. Fathers only need to point to family law and the mountain of carnage that is growing at an exponential rate.

Jim Untershine, 824 E Pass Rd #3, Gulfport, MS 39507,,

Jim Untershine holds a BSEE from Mississippi State University and has 13 years experience in feedback control system design. Mr. Untershine is currently using the teachings of Werner Heisenberg and Henry David Thoreau to expose Family Law in California as the exploitation of children for money and the indentured servitude of heterosexual taxpayers who dare to raise children in this country.

Sunday April 14 08:43 AM EDT

Mother saw no signs of trouble before ex-husband shot children

By Stacy St. Clair Daily Herald Staff Writer

Andrea Bahena thought it strange when her ex-husband appeared on her doorstep late Monday night, but she welcomed him in, anyway.

Tomas Bahena, 44, rarely came by after dark unless it was an emergency. He appeared to be in a genuine predicament, claiming his car had broken down and asking to sleep on the couch.

His ex-wife agreed, unwittingly starting a deadly chain of events inside the family's Glendale Heights home. By dawn, Tomas and their son Christopher, 14, would be dead, and their two daughters fighting for life.

"Tomas seemed fine," Andrea Bahena says in her first interview since the shooting spree. "I don't know why this happened. I am so confused."

Tomas Bahena, a custodian, arrived at his ex-wife's house Monday after finishing the night shift at a Northbrook elementary school.

His 12-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, was thrilled by her father's unexpected visit, and rushed about the house grabbing linens to make up a bed for him. He and Andrea chatted amicably.

Tomas and Andrea Bahena, who married in 1981, had maintained a cordial relationship since their 1995 divorce. He often helped with household chores, took the younger ones to school and watched the children when his ex-wife was ill.

Though he lived with his girlfriend in River Forest, Tomas stayed at the family home for a month this past winter when Andrea was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism.

"We worked very hard to have a good relationship," Andrea says. "We worked at it very hard for the kids' sake."

Their divorce settlement granted Tomas visitation rights every Sunday afternoon, but Andrea allowed him to spend time with the kids whenever he wanted. Police officers and social workers who knew the Bahenas considered him to be a stabilizing figure in the often troubled family.

Andrea, however, contends her ex-husband was wrestling with his own demons. A doctor put him on medication for schizophrenia a few months ago, but Andrea says she told him to go back and get a different prescription.

About five weeks ago, she says, the doctor placed him on Prozac and Tranzodone, both popular anti-depressants. Andrea doesn't know if he was on the drugs when he showed up at her house Monday night.

"He didn't seem depressed," she says. "There were no signs."

Once Tomas settled onto the couch, Andrea and Nicky, Andrea's 5-year-old son from a different relationship, went to her bedroom to watch a movie. Jacqueline got ready for school the next day. Tomas turned on the news.

"There was no argument or fighting or anything like that," Andrea says. "I've let him come and go as he pleases. I trusted him to be a loving father."

A half hour later, the couple's oldest daughter, Esther, 18, returned from shopping with her younger brother Christopher, 14.

The teen was not pleased to see her father, Andrea says. The relationship between the two had been icy in recent months, and Esther retreated to her mother's room to avoid a confrontation.

Christopher and Jacqueline, who both attended Glenside Middle School, went to sleep around midnight. Nicky was asleep in his mother's bed by 1 a.m.

Andrea and Esther watched "The Long, Long Trailer" together while the teen did her laundry. The girl made herself a cup of tea at 2:30 a.m. and said goodnight.

Believing everyone in her house - including Tomas - had fallen asleep, Andrea rewound the movie, shut off the lights and went to bed. She estimates she had been asleep for 30 minutes when shots rang out in the house.

The first blast came from Jacqueline's room, the one closest to the living room. Police say Tomas fired a bullet from his .22-caliber handgun into the girl's head around 5 a.m.

Tomas then continued down the hallway to Christopher's room, and shot his son. The eighth-grade boy, who was protective of his younger siblings and loved to make people laugh, died before paramedics arrived.

Jacqueline has been on life support at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, and her mother does not expect the girl to survive. However, a hospital spokesman said Saturday the girl was upgraded to serious condition.

"I feel like she died at the house," says Andrea, 44. "Chris and her were so close, they probably went up to heaven together."

After shooting Christopher and Jacqueline, Andrea says, Tomas went into Esther's room and fired a single bullet at her. The teen told authorities it felt like someone had hit her in the head.

Esther cried out for her mother.

"Mommy, mommy I've been shot," she yelled. "Help me."

Esther chased her father into the living room where he shot her again, Andrea says. Glendale Heights police said they could not confirm the account while the case is under investigation.

The second shot apparently did not incapacitate the teen, either. She grabbed some clothes and pressed them to her head to stop the bleeding. She then watched in horror as her father put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.

Andrea entered the living room soon after with the cordless telephone in her hand. She stepped over a lifeless Tomas to reach Esther, who was crying that her head hurt.

She says she called 911, but became too overwhelmed to answer the dispatcher's questions about whether Tomas was still alive.

"You'll never know the pain of stepping over your ex-husband's dead body to go help your daughter," she says.

Nicky, who is in pre-kindergarten, watched the bloodshed from the doorway of his mother's bedroom. Though he wasn't biologically Tomas' son, Andrea says her ex-husband loved the boy and provided child support for him.

"You always hear about deadbeat dads," she says. "He was not a deadbeat dad. He was a loving father. He cared about all the kids."

Three days after the shootings, Andrea still wonders what her husband truly intended to do that night. He clearly had been making his way down the hall, stopping at each bedroom he encountered.

If he hadn't shot Esther twice, she believes he would have shot her, too.

"I am alive today because my room was at the end of the hall," she says as she starts to cry. "Why did he do this to me? Why did he take everything I loved away?"

Andrea has spent the majority of the past week with Jacqueline at Loyola Medical Center. The girl had undergone several surgeries but had shown no signs of life. Her mother already talked about her in the past tense.

"She had a bubbly personality," Andreas told a reporter. "You should tell everybody she was going to be in the 'Oliver Twist' musical at school. You should tell them she won a contest for the best DARE poster and she got to walk in the parade."

After three days of tragedy and media scrutiny, Andrea Bahena looked tired. A series of health problems have complicated her breathing and forced her to use a wheelchair to get around. She had slept just a few hours since the killings and had been home only once to grab some clothes.

She says she has sent Nicholas to live with a family friend to prevent the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from taking him away. Her oldest son, 17-year-old Antonio, recently was released from a juvenile detention center and is living in a foster home.

Andrea visited Esther for the first time since the shootings on Thursday night at Glen Oaks Medical Center in Glendale Heights. She would have liked to have seen her daughter earlier, Andrea says, but she needed to be with Jacqueline who is in more critical condition. A hospital spokeswoman says Esther remained in serious but stable condition Saturday.

Andrea also must contend with Christopher's funeral. Though she says the arrangements have been taken care of, the boy's body was still at the DuPage County coroner's office Saturday.

Rest, it seems, will not come anytime soon.

"I am tired," she says. "But I can't close my eyes. It's too hard."

Mother: Two daughters remain in hospital

Wednesday April 10 08:06 AM EDT

Dad kills son, himself

By Stacy St. Clairand Catherine Edman Daily Herald Staff Writers

Until Tuesday morning, everyone considered Tomas Bahena the stabilizing figure in a troubled family. The 43-year-old father moved out of his Glendale Heights home a little more than a year ago, but saw his four children regularly.

Though he had moved to River Forest, he was, by all accounts, working with school officials, social workers and local authorities to alleviate problems at home.

Authorities viewed him as the family disciplinarian, the one who fought to keep his oldest children from gangs and alcohol and his youngest children from skipping school. He also was a buffer between the kids and their disabled mother, who once was charged with domestic violence against her oldest son and later filed a restraining order against her oldest daughter.

It was Bahena's devotion to the family that most perplexes police as they attempt to figure out why he shot his three children - killing one - then committed suicide inside the family home early Tuesday morning.

"The father has never been the problem," Glendale Heights Police Chief Roger Mabbit said.

Bahena, a school janitor who has no criminal history and only a few traffic tickets, went to see his family after finishing his nightshift at 11 p.m. Monday, authorities said. His car wouldn't start when he wanted to leave so he opted to spend the night on the couch, according to a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Around 5 a.m., Bahena apparently entered his children's bedrooms and fired a single bullet into each of their heads. He then returned to the living room, where he shot himself and died, police said.

Bahena's ex-wife, Andrea, and her 5-year-old son, Nicholas, were home but were not injured. The couple's oldest son, 17-year-old Antonio, was not at the home when the shootings occurred.

Their youngest son, 14-year-old Christopher, died before paramedics arrived. Twelve-year-old daughter Jacqueline was taken to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, where she was in critical condition late Tuesday.

The eldest child, Esther, 18, was being treated at Glen Oaks Hospital in Glendale Heights, where she was in serious condition.

Authorities said Bahena left no suicide note. They said Andrea Bahena could offer no explanation for her ex-husband's actions.

Andrea Bahena, 44, filed for divorce in 1995 after 14 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. As part of the settlement, she retained full custody of the children and all their possessions.

Her ex-husband, who has worked as an elementary school janitor in Northlake for the past 17 years, received his clothes, toiletries and most of his retirement. He also agreed to earmark 40 percent of his paycheck for child support.

Andrea Bahena purchased the family's first home, a $113,000 ranch house in Glendale Heights, in January 1999. A year later, she was charged with domestic battery after police said she struck then-15-year-old Antonio on his right shoulder with her wooden cane.

The boy was not seriously injured, refused to testify against his mother and the case later was dropped.

Before charges were dismissed, Andrea Bahena filed paperwork with the court indicating the family was struggling financially. She listed her $1,068 monthly disability check as her only source of income. Her liabilities included a $724 monthly mortgage payment and $3,500 in monthly medical bills and credit card payments.

Shortly after the battery arrest, Tomas Bahena moved back into the family home and his ex-wife added him to the mortgage in April 2000. He moved out a year later and family troubles escalated.

Police began making frequent visits to the house and school officials notified the Bahenas of Christopher's occasional truancies. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which began working with the family in 1991, continued to offer assistance.

The two oldest teens, Esther and Antonio, recently were arrested for unlawful possession of alcohol, according to court records. Esther, who dropped out of Glenbard West High School, also was convicted of resisting arrest last year.

In November, Andrea filed an emergency order of protection against Esther after she said the teen came home drunk and verbally abusive.

Though she later dropped the order, Andrea Bahena stated Esther was not welcome in the house because she was a bad influence on the younger children. She complained the teen refused to work, abused drugs and had gang ties, according to court records.

Andrea Bahena said she decided to kick Esther out of the house when the drunken teen became unruly one morning, cursing at her family and demanding her mother make her breakfast.

"Esther knows I do not want her to stay with us because she won't go to school or get a job," her mother wrote in the court order. "She pushed me out of my room, saying, 'I will break all of the windows in the van and the house and get my gang friends to help me.' I need this order of protection."

Funeral arrangements for Tomas Bahena and Christopher Bahena have not been finalized.

Daily Herald staff writers Christy Gutowski, Carmen Greco and Dave Orrick contributed to this report.

Shoot: Ex-wife could not offer explanation