Mother Who Let Her Children Drown Fights for Custody of Her New Family
An Illinois woman convicted of child endangerment for watching her then-boyfriend drown her three children will reportedly learn Friday if she will be able to regain custody of three other children that she had after getting out of prison.
The children were taken away by officials once they learned of her criminal past.
Amanda Hamm was convicted of child endangerment for doing nothing in 2003 as Maurice LaGrone drove her Cutlass into Clinton Lake and swam to safety, leaving her children— Christopher Hamm, six, Austin Brown, three, and Kyleigh Ham, 23 months— to drown in the back seat of the car.
Hamm, who stands 5-foot-10 and was also in the car, claimed at the time that she tried to unbuckle one child, but panicked and saved herself, even though the water was 4 ½ feet deep, according to reports.
LaGrone was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence, but Hamm was released from prison after spending five years behind bars.
Now known as Amanda Ware, the 39-year-old woman and her husband are fighting to regain custody of their three children, two girls and a boy ages five, three and 18 months, who were taken away by child protection authorities last year after a doctor reportedly recognized the woman as the former Hamm.
Cook County Judge Demetrios Kottaras said he will rule November 6 on whether prosecutors have made their case.
Prosecutors and child protection authorities have argued that though there has been no physical harm against the three children, there is evidence of current abuse and neglect, the Associated Press reported.
Chicago Police responded in 2012 to a domestic abuse call at the Ware’s house after Leo Ware allegedly struck his wife. The next year, a pregnant Amanda Ware sought an order of protection, saying she feared for herself and her children because Leo Ware was using crack cocaine and might become violent, the AP wrote. She had the order dropped two weeks later.
“She has not changed the pattern,” Assistant State’s Attorney Joan Pernecke said in her closing arguments. “This freight train of evidence is bearing down on three children who must be protected.”
The parents’ attorneys said the children were healthy and showed no signs of abuse and instead cried and took off their shoes and socks in an effort to stop child protection workers from taking them, according to reports.
No problems had ever been reported to the state Department of Children and Family Services until a doctor at a hospital where Ware gave birth recognized her, according to the Wares’ attorneys, the AP wrote.
Prosecutors said that Amanda War has a long history of depression and drug and alcohol abuse. They said that 20 years ago, she told a mental health worker that she wanted to kill herself by driving into a lake, according to reports.
During her 2006 trial, prosecutors said she could not live without a man so she was willing to sacrifice her children, who were not LaGrone’s.
Both she and LaGrone claimed the deaths of her three children were an accident, and that they could not get the kids out of the car, but rescuers who were eventually called by Ware said it took two minutes to remove the children.
Leo Ware told the AP that the couple is being targeted unfairly and that he and his wife deserve a chance to move on.
“They want to compare me to Maurice LaGrone, but I take that as an insult; these are MY kids,” he told the AP. “We raised my kids for three years before they decided it was a problem. We all make bad decisions in life. This is about moving on.”