Mother fears teenage son is in 'cult' home in Gardendale

The Birmingham News/July 30, 2010

A mother is seeking custody of her teenage son, who is believed to reside in a Gardendale home where a baby died in April of severe malnutrition.

The death of Justin Stockton, 16 months, has been ruled a homicide. The Gardendale Police Department and the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office said there is an ongoing investigation into the death, but no charges have been filed.

His parents, Jeff and Becky Stockton, have declined to comment through their attorney, Charlie Gorham.

Pamela Stockton, a former resident of the home where Justin died and ex-wife to the baby's uncle, filed a motion last month in Jefferson County Circuit Court seeking emergency custody of her son.

In her motion, Stockton said her son "is in danger and his life, health and welfare are in jeopardy." The motion states: "her minor child has been living in a compound made up of Stockton family members who have participated in a cult environment. One of the cult rules prohibits medical treatment for any of the members who reside on the compound."

Stockton also filed a motion that states her ex-husband is in contempt of court and not following the orders of the divorce decree.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge R.A. Ferguson Jr. denied Pamela Stockton's motion for emergency custody of her son. A hearing is set for Monday concerning jurisdiction of the case.

Reginald Stockton, who has custody of the child in question, denied on Thursday every allegation made in Stockton's motion, through an answer to the motion filed by Gorham, his attorney. The answer asks for "strict" proof of the allegations.

Both Reginald and Pamela Stockton declined to comment.

In her motion, Pamela Stockton said another child had also died in the family. She said her son, Reginald Lee Stockton Jr., died in 1989 at the age of 4 "due to inability to receive medical treatment."

Bill Yates, a Jefferson County deputy coroner, said the 4-year-old child died in 1989 from congenital heart disease. The manner of death was natural causes, he said.

Yates said his office has reviewed the 4-year-old's death and three stillborn deaths as part of the Justin Stockton homicide investigation. All of the deaths occurred at a private residence and were not attended by a physician, he said.

"When we pulled the files, in every case, the family told investigators that the child does not have a physician and the family does not seek treatment from doctors," Yates said.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources removed eight children from the Moncrief Road home after Justin's death was ruled a homicide last month. They are the minor children of Jeff and Becky Stockton and range in age from 4 to 17.

Barry Spear, a DHR spokesman, said he could not comment on the whereabouts of those children, but said the department is still providing services to the family.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said he could not comment about his office's investigation into Justin's death. He did say it was a difficult case.

"I do want the public to understand we are going to be making a decision best for the community at large," Falls said. "We feel there is more evidence that we need to review before making a final decision. We want to make sure any charges, if there are charges, are based on all the facts and all of the evidence."

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