The Case From Hell, Part II

On September 23, 1989, Lisette Nogues, a consulting neurologist, and Andres Nogues, an aspiring physician and her husband of thirteen years, were accused by their fifteen-year-old daughter Aimee of child abuse. That same night, caseworkers from the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) removed the Nogueses' seven minor children from their Kendall home and sent them to stay with their 21-year-old sister Michelle Nogues Porras and her husband Rick. Det. Ellen Christopher, of the Metro-Dade Police sexual battery unit, initiated a criminal investigation of Aimee's allegations that Andres had engaged in vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse with her for the past three years. Christopher concluded that Aimee's stories -- which included claims that Lisette was physically abusive -- had been fabricated in the misguided hope that she could escape her mother's strict household. Aimee's own private confessions to friends supported Christopher's theory; Aimee later insisted she made the allegations at Michelle's urging. But HRS officials and Dade State Attorney's Office prosecutors building a case for juvenile court believed Aimee. And the Nogueses, a month into the investigation, were denied visitation rights with their children altogether.

On January 8, 1990, after seventeen weeks of rancorous pretrial hearings, Lisette and Andres Nogues finally came to trial in juvenile court on the ten abuse charges lodged by HRS. The proceeding, formally called an adjudication hearing, carries no criminal penalty, but if a judge finds parents guilty of even one charge, their children remain wards of the state until the parents meet certain conditions -- such as undergoing therapy or taking parenting classes -- set out in a "performance agreement."

During the seventeen-day trial, which dragged out over a two-month period, Lisette Nogues's forceful personality made her a lightning rod for scorn. Born in Cuba, Nogues was orphaned at five, married young, and later put herself through medical school as a single mother with five children. Strict and demanding, she ran her close-knit household with an unbending sense of morality. To the state, she became a dragon lady. Defense attorney Juan Carrera says prosecutors and Guardians Ad Litem privately carped at her righteous manner, her crucifixes, even her taste for black skirts. "I've never experienced anything like it," recalls Carrera, an eight-year veteran of juvenile court. "When you look at the transcript, you see the amount of time the state spent trying to prove that Lisette Nogues was inherently wicked. At one point I sat down with [Assistant State Attorney] Esther Blynn and told her, `Look, this is totally out of hand.' And the attitude coming back was like, `You have devils for clients.'"

The state cast Lisette Nogues as a religious zealot who terrorized her children and kept them isolated from their peers. At one point prosecutors called a neighbor to document the family's strange chant for sun -- San Isidro el labrador/quita el agua y pon el sol -- a Cuban folk rhyme so well known that several courtroom observers couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of its evil portrayal. Even the state's first major witness, family friend Nidia Carrero, confirmed what Lisette's own records show: that she was a mother so concerned about her children's welfare that she wrote to their schools in 1985 stating she would not tolerate corporal punishment of them. "I told them she was a very, very loving mother and they all looked at me like I was crazy," recalls Carrero, who lived with the Nogueses for four years. (62) "They portrayed her as something out of the Dark Ages, a monster. It seemed to me like all they had was Michelle's word."(63)

Juan Carrera says once prosecutors saw their case against Lisette was fizzling, they changed tack, pursuing the central charge against Andres Nogues: that he regularly engaged in sex with Aimee. Prosecutor Esther Blynn pointed to Andres Nogues's own admission that when Aimee was eight years old, he had accidentally touched her between the legs as he dozed. She also cited Michelle Porras's 1986 allegation that Andres fondled her breasts as she pretended to sleep -- discredited by Michelle's own recantation and polygraphs of both parties -- as confirmation of Andres's abusive history.

But the state's case was principally founded on the emotional theatrics in Aimee's two depositions, videotaped before the trial. They were masterful performances that Aimee now insists reflected mostly the inner torment she felt about ruining her family with lies. On two occasions Judge Seymour Gelber requested that Aimee testify in person, but prosecutors said she was too "fragile" to appear in court.

Beyond Aimee's and Michelle's depositions and the analyses of state-commissioned psychologists, the hard evidence seemed to favor the Nogueses. Ellen Christopher, for instance, had discovered that on two particular days when Aimee had called a friend and told him she'd been molested, Andres Nogues was working 24-hour shifts at Miami Children's Hospital. Aimee also claimed they had sex in a storage room that Christopher determined was so full of junk not even the exterminator could get the door open. (64) Aimee tested positive for the highly contagious venereal disease chlamydia. Both her parents tested negative on a pair of tests, confirming neither had had the disease in the past ten years. (65) Dr. Robert Greenman, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Miami Medical School, testified that Andres would have run a 70-to-90 percent chance of contracting chlamydia from Aimee if he had sexual contact with her as frequently as prosecutors alleged. (65a)  

That Aimee was not a virgin, the state argued, supported the allegations of abuse by Andres. But early in the case Aimee had told HRS investigative caseworker Shelly Snodgrass, and Guardians Ad Litem June Shaw and Robin Greene, about her 28-year-old lover. (66) During the proceedings Snodgrass passed along this information to Assistant State Attorney Jim Smart. (67) All four withheld the disclosure from the court and from police, keeping mum even when both Aimee and the man denied under oath that they had engaged in sex. Greene, Smart, and Snodgrass later admitted in depositions that they did not disclose this information to police or the court. Shaw acknowledged her awareness of it in a taped phone conversation with Aimee. (68) Smart now says he didn't mention anything because he "didn't think much of [the disclosure] at the time. It seemed fairly incidental then, and I'm not sure it's significant now." Det. Ellen Christopher disagrees. In her report, she concluded that Aimee's relationship with this older man was a major reason she wanted to move out of her parents' house and, in turn, was a prime motive for her false allegations, a claim Aimee now admits is true. (Though Snodgrass stated she would like to add her comments to this article, she was constrained from doing so by confidentiality rules governing HRS juvenile cases. An HRS spokeswoman confirmed that Snodgrass could not comment. Shaw and Greene also cited confidentiality rules in explaining why they were unable to comment about the case.)

The testimony of Simon Miranda, a psychologist and expert in child sexual abuse, was another point of contention during the trial. Hired by the Nogueses, he evaluated Aimee before the trial and concluded she was lying. (69) One crucial factor in that conclusion was Aimee's description of her father's penis as normal. In fact, Andres bears a pronounced scar. (70) Aimee says (71) Robin Greene responded to the discrepancy by telling her about the scar before a second meeting with Miranda. Greene contended in a recent sworn deposition that she did encourage Aimee to try again to convince Miranda she had been abused, but gave her no specific information. (72) Whatever the case, Aimee's sudden memory of the scar during a second interview with Miranda was key in changing his opinion. He returned to court a week after his original testimony and told the judge he now felt Aimee had been abused. Today Miranda says he doubts any abuse ever occurred. (73)

In Blynn's closing statement, she claimed Aimee wrote that she "had sex with her father" in a coded diary she had kept during the alleged abuse. Ellen Christopher -- who broke the code -- testified Aimee wrote nothing of the sort. Blynn stated Aimee had "simply no rectal tone...consistent with anal intercourse over an extended period of time." But Rape Treatment Center director Dr. Dorothy Hicks, a state witness, had earlier testified, "I don't think that this young lady has ever had full penile penetration [of the anus]." Blynn claimed Aimee never recanted, when in fact Aimee's friend Eric Schraner had testified only days before that she had. Blynn portrayed the chlamydia issue as "of no importance," and downplayed Aimee's sexual activity by questioning her own star witness's credibility. "All [investigators] have," she declared in a moment of accidental irony, "is Aimee's word that she had had intercourse." (74) (Blynn did not return repeated phone calls and messages from New Times asking her to comment).

By trial's end, March 5, 1990, the words of the accusers proved enough to find Andres guilty of sexually abusing Aimee and of fondling Michelle Porras in 1986. Defense attorney Juan Carrera says any judge can be swayed by a videotaped deposition of a histrionic teen. What sunk the Nogueses, he believes, is the juvenile court's lower burden of proof. While criminal courts demand evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, judges in juvenile proceedings require only a "preponderance" of evidence. "It's absurd, if you think about it," Carrera observes. "Here you have parents who could lose their kids, and all the prosecution has to do is convince the judge they've got 51 percent."  

Still, Carrera was shocked at Judge Seymour Gelber's third ruling -- that Lisette Nogues knew of Andres's abuse and endangered her children by ignoring it. "There is no evidence, not one shred, that Lisette Nogues failed to protect her children. Even Aimee didn't say her mom knew of it," Carrera says. "It was my impression that if Lisette Nogues even suspected her husband had done anything improper with those kids, he would be in a hospital, not jail." Carrera believes Lisette paid dearly for her demeanor in court. "There were times I was presenting the evidence with one hand and keeping her down with the other," he recalls. "She couldn't understand why the entire weight of the juvenile justice system was allied to destroy her family. I think the judge noticed that and, in his mind, it confirmed the state's portrayal of her."

Judge Gelber, a candidate for mayor of Miami Beach, refuses to discuss the specific bases for his decisions, but he does say he tried many times to facilitate a pretrial compromise between the parties. He also defends the juvenile court's less demanding rules: "If you want a process where the main concern is the family, you have to minimize all the legal adventure so the case doesn't drag on with the kids in limbo."

Ironically, Gelber's ruling came just as Detective Christopher was concluding that there was no basis for criminal charges against Andres. Nonetheless, the guilty verdict in juvenile court forced the Nogueses to fulfill a dizzying array of conditions set out by HRS and the Guardians Ad Litem before they could get their children back. Among the ruling's highlights: that Lisette, Andres, and six of their children enter therapy; that the parents attend parenting classes; that their children return to public schools from home tutoring; and that the Nogueses provide full child support -- including the purchase or rental of a four-bedroom dwelling for custodians Michelle and Rick Porras -- until the state deemed the Nogueses fit to reclaim their children.

The Nogueses were hopeful that a post-trial plan by Judge Gelber to reunite the kids with Lisette within 30 days would expedite the process. But the proposal was squelched after the Nogueses were accused -- falsely, they say -- of visiting two of their daughters. "We are asking that that also be part of the sanctions that the court imposes," prosecutor Blynn told Gelber during the March 26 contempt hearing that followed, "that it be a long time before these children are returned, until the parents demonstrate that they are capable of cooperating, instead of defying the court order."

On March 23, Jeanette Nogues wrote a letter to Judge Gelber claiming, as her brother Javier had, that Rick and Michelle Porras posed a danger to her and her brothers and sisters. (75) She and her siblings were unhappy, she wrote, and she begged the judge to send them back to live with their parents. Jeanette says the judge never responded to it. "I would tell Shelly Snodgrass and June Shaw about this stuff," Jeanette recalls, "like the time Rick shaved my legs to the bikini line, and they'd be like, `He's just trying to be helpful. If you don't like it, confront him yourself.' And I was like, `Right, and have him hit me?'" Three days after Jeanette wrote the letter, the Porrases placed her in a shelter. She was then moved to a foster home. She says she has never been interviewed by HRS about her claims. (76) (Rick Porras says neither he nor Michelle will answer questions, respond to allegations, or discuss the issues in the Nogues case.)

Aimee, meanwhile, was building the courage to publicly admit she'd lied. She says her Guardians Ad Litem were the main obstacle. "I was feeling so much pressure from Robin [Greene] and June [Shaw]," she says. "They made an implication that if, you know, I took back the story, I'd go to another hospital or shelter or to jail for perjury. So more and more I felt like there was no way out of this. That I really couldn't turn back." (77)

On March 31, less than a month after the trial ended, Aimee did turn back. She took a taxi to Ellen Christopher's office, and when the detective arrived, recanted her story in a sworn statement. And she pleaded with Christopher not to contact June Shaw or Robin Greene. Christopher notified her superior, but did not inform Shaw or Greene. Aimee then wrote a letter to Judge Gelber admitting to him that she had lied.

Shaw and her colleagues, however, soon learned of Aimee's confession, and they reacted aggressively. In a court hearing without the Nogueses or their lawyer present, prosecutors took the extraordinary step of asking Judge Gelber to issue an injunction barring Ellen Christopher from having any more contact with Aimee, claiming the police officer had "emotionally abused" Aimee by taking her sworn statement of recantation. Howard Pohl, the assistant state attorney then in charge of sexual battery, spoke on Christopher's behalf in court, calling the motion "slanderous." But Gelber, who had read Aimee's letter and did not consider it credible, (78) complied.  

Based on the testimony of court-appointed psychologist Iris Bruel, prosecutors also obtained a court order to hospitalize Aimee. "All I got was a series of bland statements that she was lying before, why doesn't anybody believe her now that she is telling the truth, that she lied to everybody all along and that she feels much better now that she's telling the truth," noted Bruel, who had talked with Aimee the day before the hearing. (79) She concluded from this encounter: "I think [Aimee] may attempt suicide in order to stop herself from attacking the mother, murderously attacking the mother." Psychiatrists at two facilities disagreed and refused to admit Aimee. She wound up in a foster home instead. A month later Aimee and Jeanette both ran away from their foster homes.(81) (Bruel refused comment for this article, saying she could not violate confidentiality rules.)

The Dade State Attorney's Office, suspecting the runaways were illegally contacting their parents, initiated a three-week surveillance of the Nogueses' residence. Though four full-time investigators were employed in the task, they found nothing. A week after the surveillance ended, HRS caseworker Shelly Snodgrass -- hired to assist in the state attorney's search for the girls -- testified at a court hearing (82) that, after receiving a tip, she drove to the Atlas movie house in Hialeah and saw the Nogueses with the two runaways, though she did not confront them at the theater.

Despite vehement denials (83) of the allegation by the girls and parents, the Nogueses were arrested for interference with custody, a third-degree felony. But before being brought to trial in criminal court, the parents were ordered to appear in juvenile court to disclose the girls' whereabouts. At a June 5 hearing, on the advice of his attorney, Andres refused to testify, invoking the Fifth Amendment. He insists he didn't know where the children were but was fearful he'd be charged with perjury (a more serious crime) if he told that to the court. Judge Gelber, who was presiding, found him in contempt and sentenced him to six months minus a day, the maximum sentence allowed without a trial. While still awaiting arraignment on interference-with-custody charges, Nogues was hauled off to jail. Three weeks later, at his criminal arraignment, Andres had his $1000 bond revoked when he pleaded not guilty. Now there was no way he could get out of jail, even if the contempt charges were dropped. Andres remained in jail for five months. During this time, the Nogueses' appeal for a new juvenile-court trial based on Aimee's recantation was turned down by the Third District Court of Appeals.

Lisette, who got approval from her lawyers to skip the June 5 hearing due to chest pains, received a call from her daughters a few days later. The girls were crying and panicky. They said they had no place to go and were worried their mother, too, would be jailed. "When that call came, with my girls crying, saying they didn't want to be alone, I stopped caring about going to jail," Lisette says now. She met up with Aimee and Jeanette and they fled as fugitives.

With the girls and their mother bouncing from hotel to hotel on the lam, the State Attorney's Office began a series of what the Nogueses characterize as Draconian visits to friends and relatives. For instance, given permission by Judge Bruce Levy to visit *(the Nogueses' eldest son) Andy Cabo's home to check on Javier, an HRS investigator and two Hialeah policemen broke into Cabo's residence -- shattering windows in the process (84) -- and searched the premises, apparently without the required warrant. (85)

Aimee continued to stay in touch by telephone with June Shaw, Shelly Snodgrass, and Robin Greene, and she told them she would gladly surrender (86) to the court on three conditions: that they promise not to send her to a shelter or hospital, that she would be allowed to take a polygraph test, and that Greene would remove herself as Aimee's lawyer. Greene's response to the third request? "I am not going to let your fucking parents get away with this," she said in a tape-recorded conversation with Aimee. "You understand me? If you want to stay in hiding, fine!" (87)

Likewise, the Guardians' refusal to let Aimee take a polygraph, which dated back to Det. Ellen Christopher's requests in the first weeks of the case, remained steadfast while Aimee was on the run. Attorney Ira Dubitsky, brought into the case to mend fences between the two parties, recalls wanting to have Aimee tested, but says he was told by June Shaw there was a court order forbidding it. (89) On June 21 Shaw even sent him a letter stating that the Guardian Ad Litem policy regarding polygraphs "is very clear. We object to this procedure." (90) The program's rules actually state that children should decide the matter themselves in an atmosphere free of pressure. In September of last year, Aimee and her mother, still on the run, took the matter into their own hands. They flew to New York City to be tested by Richard Arther, one of the nation's foremost polygraphers. After two separate half-day tests, Arther concluded Aimee was telling the truth when she said that she had not had sex with Andres and that Michelle had asked her to lie about her parents' abuse. (91)  

On October 12, Lisette and the girls were captured while visiting Lisette, Jr., at Hammocks Junior High School. Aimee spent four days in the county's juvenile detention center after being charged with resisting arrest. Lisette spent two months in jail for interference with custody before her bond was reinstated.

When he signed on to the case in early August of last year, attorney Ed Carhart intended only to represent Andres Nogues in his interference-with-custody charge. But soon the attorney found himself entangled in all aspects of the ordeal, and he quickly sensed how far the state was willing to go to break the Nogueses. "It was obvious to me that this case was being managed at the highest levels because I had to take everything to Shay Bilchik [chief assistant state attorney for administration]. It didn't make any sense. The state attorney is moving for no bond on a man charged with a third-degree felony. I've gotten rapists bond. I've gotten high-powered drug dealers bond. And I can't get a medical doctor bond on a nit-pick charge. I mean, nobody goes to jail on these charges."

What infuriates defense attorney Jesus Bujan, who inherited the case from Juan Carrera and is working with Carhart, is HRS's refusal to settle on a "performance agreement" that would allow Lisette Nogues to get her children back. "All you hear out of the juvenile court is this endless lip service about reuniting the family," Bujan says. "Well, I've been trying to negotiate a performance agreement with the other side since October of last year. I've been through 35 different drafts, and every time they come back with something new." Bujan says the Nogueses are caught in a Catch-22: the state wants Andres to complete a program for sexual offenders and Lisette to enter a program for wives of sexual offenders, both of which require that they admit guilt to crimes they insist they never committed.

Attorney Carrera says he, too, tried to negotiate with the state during his stint on the case but soon detected some larger, systemic pathology was at work. "The Nogueses wouldn't back down, and the state took it personal," he says. "They believed there was no way, shape, or form these parents could ever be rehabilitated to the point where they could have their children." Ed Carhart explains it this way: "Lisette Nogues is the kind of woman who poses a threat to the [child protection] system because she sees through the hocus-pocus that they can pull off on the illiterate and the poor and the powerless. And she's got the resources and the will to expose them." What stupefies Carhart is the amount of money the state has spent prosecuting the Nogues case. He estimates the cost of the two-year court battle at more than a million dollars, funds he says would be better spent helping the needy children of Dade County.

The Nogueses insist the state's persecution of them extends beyond the courtroom. In May 1990, for instance, a State Attorney's Office investigator contacted Florida's Department of Professional Regulation. In January of this year the agency initiated an investigation of Lisette's medical licensing and found no improprieties. Robin Greene testified in a recent sworn deposition that she, too, called DPR last spring, informing them of Andres's alleged misdeeds. "We don't even work, and they've gone after our medical practices," Andres says disgustedly. (92) In May of last year, HRS caseworker Shelly Snodgrass filed a report on each of the Nogueses with the Florida Child Abuse Registry, a database that compiles the names of all those "involved" with a child-abuse investigation. Snodgrass listed Andres as a "confirmed" abuser of six-year-old Daniel Nogues and Lisette as a "confirmed" abuser of Javier, (93) even though these claims were never mentioned, let alone proven, in court.  

Early this year the couple received letters from HRS advising them not to work with children, the elderly, or the handicapped until they appear for an HRS hearing to prove their innocence. Lisette says she is still waiting for HRS to contact her about such a hearing. The same month they received the letters from HRS, the Nogueses and six of their children were forced to surrender their passports to the court (they have not yet been returned). The four older Nogues children also have been ordered by the court not to contact their younger sisters and brother. Lisette says she's even had trouble compelling HRS caseworkers to give her updates on her children's health and schoolwork.

In January of this year, psychologist Simon Miranda, at the Nogueses' request, evaluated the four youngest children. In his strongly worded report, (94) he asked the court to remove them from the Porras home and return them to their mother immediately, warning of long-term psychological damage if they remained isolated from her. Again HRS and its attendant psychologists successfully opposed his recommendation.

This past March the Nogueses filed a motion requesting that the juvenile-court verdict be thrown out, claiming they had extensive new evidence to present -- not the least of which was Aimee's sworn recantation, which has never been heard in court. In May, without an evidentiary hearing, Judge Gelber denied the request, but his ruling was later voided. The motion is still pending and is expected to be heard this fall.

In the midst of their frustration, the Nogueses have taken advantage of the fact that they are still charged with interference with custody. Because those charges are pending, the couple has been granted subpoena power, which they have been using to take depositions from the state officials who pushed their case forward. Attorney Ed Carhart says the sworn statements are confirming not only numerous improprieties, but the deluded sense of logic motivating them. (95) "One witness told me the other day that Aimee's been programmed by her mother. So I say, `Let me get this straight. Does that mean Lisette programmed her to make allegations against Andres?' They're full of it. They are logically and intellectually not believable, and no fair and impartial trier of fact would accept these people's explanations for their conduct."

Finding that trier, Carhart says, will be an uphill battle. Currently, the Nogueses are hoping a judge outside the juvenile court will hear their motion to overturn the ruling. They feel confident an impartial judge would accept at least one of their multiple grounds for mistrial, which include allegations of fraud, misrepresentation, and misconduct, as well as satchels of new evidence. But last month presiding Judge William Gladstone denied a motion to remove himself from the case, and the Third District Court of Appeals upheld his ruling.

Should the Nogueses' motion for mistrial be denied, Judge Gladstone will likely order them and prosecutors to settle on a performance agreement. If they cannot, he will draw up a plan himself. As has been the case for more than eighteen months, the Nogueses say they'd be happy to sign a pact, as long as they don't have to admit to crimes they didn't commit. If the Nogueses don't sign Gladstone's plan, the state could take the children away permanently.

A complaint filed by Det. Ellen Christopher, alleging a dozen criminal violations by Guardians Ad Litem June Shaw and Robin Greene, is one of hundreds of documents investigators from the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office are currently reviewing in order to determine whether state officials mishandled the Nogues case or violated the law. The Dade State Attorney's Office and HRS both say their reviews of the case have revealed no inappropriate actions.

For now, the Nogueses await the Palm Beach State Attorney's report, hoping it will be a first step toward vindication. Investigators refuse to comment on the case, but one official does concede he is troubled by a seeming determination to use the interference-with-custody charges to punish the Nogueses for their alleged child abuse.

Although Javier recently turned eighteen and was allowed to return home, life remains lonely for Lisette and Andres Nogues. Their four youngest children remain with Michelle and Rick Porras, and Jeanette and Aimee live with friends. In the absence of children or medical practices -- which they both abandoned when the case began -- the couple wanders around home, Andres tending to the yard and the pets, Lisette handling the legal work they can no longer afford, both pondering the inexplicable nightmare from which they cannot rescue themselves or their children. "We've exercised a lot of self-control," says Andres, whose laid-back manner offsets his wife's relentless energy. "There are times I've thought of taking the kids to another state and turning ourselves in, just to get the case out of this jurisdiction. But we want to do this legally." Andres even urged his wife to say she believes the allegations against him, if it would mean she could have the children. Lisette refused.  

The older boys -- Javier and Andy -- continue to hope for a resolution, thankful they are old enough to have escaped the juvenile system's "protection." Jeanette and Aimee continue to plot ways to bring their story to light. Two months ago the two girls, along with Javier, staged a last-ditch public protest. Dressed in convicts' stripes and holding aloft sloppily scripted signs, they picketed outside the Juvenile Justice Center and the Dade County Courthouse, distributing flyers to the legal gentry scurrying past. "We're desperate. We didn't know what else to do," Aimee says, shrugging. "Sometimes I think, I'll run to the president. I'll make a really big scene. I'll knock on his window. I mean, here are people that have a lot of power, and they just won't admit they were wrong. At least I was big enough to admit I made a mistake."

Aimee's biggest worry is that her younger siblings, whose two-year anniversary in the custody of Rick and Michelle Porras is next Monday, may begin to believe they were abused by their parents, a concern seconded by child-abuse expert Simon Miranda. Still, Aimee clings to the hope that her family can be made whole again. "We are like a tree. Some of the branches may be broken or burned, some might just be clinging on," she explains. "But my mother's the root and she's really strong and we're just hanging on. Just hanging on."

Lisette Nogues may be strong, but two years of unrelenting frustration have sapped her resolve. Though she is a stout woman, there is a bagginess around her eyes, a drawn look matched by the fatalistic tone with which she assesses her future. "I could die tomorrow and they wouldn't let my kids see me," she says into the hollow calm of her living room. And here she is compelled to put away the photos of her children scattered around her, as she is not a woman inclined to crying in front of strangers.

This is the second part of a two-part article

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