A 14-year-old girl who has not seen her father since 1991 could have her first face-to-face visit with him next month, Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said Wednesday.
Murphy said the decision would ultimately be up to Alese Reichart, whom authorities say was abducted by her mother nine years ago after a bitter divorce. The public guardian refused to discuss conversations the girl has had with her therapist, but did say he anticipates that "in the near future" Alese will meet with her father, Michael Reichart, 49, of Arlington Heights. Alese's future has remained in limbo since Dec. 6, when her mother, Joli Ann Taylor, 40, was arrested in Tucson. Since Dec. 11, the girl has lived in an undisclosed location in the custody of Cook County officials.
While court proceedings have continued in Chicago and Arizona, social workers and therapists have counseled Alese to prepare her for the possibility of meeting with her father. "It'll be sometime after the first of the year if and when" a visit occurs, Murphy said in an interview. "I'm looking at a time frame of 30 days."
Taylor, who has been released on bond, promised to surrender to Midlothian police by Dec. 28. In the meantime, she has talked to her daughter once over the phone since their separation. They will likely speak again this week, Murphy said. A judge ruled Wednesday those calls may be monitored by a social worker in Murphy's office.
During the same hearing, Circuit Judge Karen Shields granted permission for Alese to spend up to six days, including Christmas, at the home of a social worker. Noting that Alese has been raised as a Jehovah's Witness, a religion that does not celebrate Christmas, attorney Diane Panos called the move a publicity stunt. Panos, representing Taylor, also objected to Murphy's characterization of the week-old relationship between the girl and her social worker as a "close bond."
The judge said that she did not think the visit would interfere with Alese's religion, adding that if the girl wanted to make the visit, she would be allowed to do so.
While officials cautiously negotiate Alese's future, charges and countercharges about the past continue to swirl. During divorce proceedings a decade ago, Taylor accused Reichart of sexually abusing the girl, a claim he denies and one that was never proved in court. Meanwhile, recently discovered court records from Mohave County, Ariz., show a family friend of Taylor's, Sam Harvey Irons, now 52, pleaded guilty in 1993 to attempted child molestation.
Panos confirmed that the child involved in that case was Alese Reichart. Murphy asked Shields on Wednesday to enter a protective order against the parties preventing them from releasing recent videos or pictures of Alese, saying that these allegations of past sexual abuse could subject her to ridicule by peers.
Shields did not place such an order, but urged both sides not to release images of the girl.
The judge deferred until Dec. 29 a request to release mental health records for both parents. At that hearing, the judge will also decide whether to appoint an independent expert to evaluate the parents' fitness for custody.