The Case From Hell, Part I

But rather than working with her, Christopher says, HRS and the Guardians Ad Litem began working against her. "I got opposition from the very beginning," the detective recalls. "I don't know why." During court appearances, Christopher would watch the prosecution in disbelief: "It was this whole crew of people, and if they won a motion it was like they were at a football game and their team made a touchdown. It was embarrassing." By contrast, her testimony seemed to carry no weight with the court. The guardians, Christopher asserts, went to absurd lengths to frustrate her investigation: refusing to let her speak to Aimee, withholding evidence, manipulating witnesses. (59) The kind of stuff, Christopher says, "that if a police officer does, we go to jail. At one point I threatened to arrest June Shaw. That's how frustrated I got. I sure had enough to make an arrest. If I'd known all this was going to happen, I would have." (In fact, Christopher filed a thirteen-page complaint in September of last year [see sidebar on page 13], alleging a dozen criminal violations by Shaw and Guardian Ad Litem Robin Greene, who is also an attorney. That complaint is one of the documents now being reviewed by the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office. Both Shaw and Greene cite confidentiality rules governing juvenile cases in explaining why they are unable to comment about the Nogues case for this article.)

While Christopher was trying to make sense of the case, the state began accusing her of colluding with the Nogueses, of losing her objectivity. (60) Robin Greene sent a letter to the Metro-Dade Police Department's Internal Review Bureau, accusing Christopher of "badgering" Aimee. The bureau found no basis for the complaint. But James Smart, then head of the State Attorney's Juvenile/Dependency division, conceded in a sworn deposition that he knew there was "a great deal of animosity" between Christopher and the guardians and that he "did want the allegations [against Andres Nogues] further investigated by other detectives." (61) Though Christopher remained the sole detective on the investigation, Smart added in a recent interview, "I wanted a fresh perspective on the case."

He might have gotten just that if he and other officials had bothered to read Christopher's painstaking police report, which completely deconstructed Aimee's claims. Smart admits he hasn't read the report, and Christopher says as far as she knows no one else from HRS, the State Attorney's Office, or the Guardian Ad Litem program has come to her office to read it since she closed the case in April. Nor, says Christopher, did officials seek her opinion of the case, despite the fact that she sent them her major findings, most of which debunked Aimee's and Michelle's claims. In a broader sense, Christopher worries about the implications of a case in which an objective, in-depth criminal probe by police carries less weight with the juvenile court than investigations by HRS and Guardians Ad Litem. "All I found was a strict mother and a kid that wanted to run away," Christopher says. "They kept saying this family was dysfunctional. If they were, the system made them that way.

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