Who was Thomas Doheny? Like many victims of family law, he was a divorced father. Incarcerated for failure to keep up with a support payment of over $19,000 monthly after taxes, he chose to end his life, seeing no way out from the corruption in the court room. Thomas wrote letters to his family and children before committing suicide in 2017, 3 years after the initiation of a divorce while he was a relatively high earner. But we don’t know much else, because of the scant amount of media coverage surrounding yet another murder by family courts. Here’s what we do know thanks to court records:
Tom, from Illinois, had a relatively high paying job ($300k/annual) in the family business that ended several years prior to his incarceration.
He was made to appear at over 260 court hearings in a course of two years to fight an impossible $19,000 a month (after taxes) imputed obligation.
The business he worked for was forced to battle the constant flood of subpoenas.
Jailed for an “indeterminate” amount of time at the discretion of Judge Michael Coppedge. That’s right, an indeterminate amount of time for civil contempt, while Tom was unemployed.
While criminal penalties are are scrutinized (though there are many problems there as well) in civil cases you are often denied due process. This is because the framework of the US legal system is set in a way that civil cases should have never been given enough teeth to deprive you of your basic civil rights, thus lack many protections. By assigning a incarceration penalty to “contempt of court” (an arbitrary civil charge with no standards) a judge has the power to bypass civil liberties and order such draconian orders such as incarceration for an “indeterminate” amount of time where no crime was committed. Just imagine, a single person (who indirectly profits from child support/alimony payments via Title IV-D) has the ability to sentence you to jail for as long as they wish simply for disobeying them, regardless of whether you have the ability to obey their order or not.
What is peculiarly ironic in this case is that the wife, who had all the power to stop the proceedings and simply come to a reasonable agreement, is the one then playing the victim in the IL superior court. She filed (and using the children’s names as well) suit against the jail, alleging wrongful death in their hands. Which not unexpectedly failed to go her way. Now doubly disappointed that she could not fleece the tax payers as she did her husband (for a time). Perhaps she should have filed suit against the judge who issued the ruling that directly caused his suicide. Or perhaps herself, the person who easily could have stopped everything, but for whatever motives, continued to push the father of her children to a point where death was the better option.
No doubt some might rush in and say “but what about the sewage family business.” While technically illegal for someone to be fired for family status, an employer with an employee who is this engrossed in litigation would be foolish to not fire them. In most states if an employer is not withholding an amount set by law, they can actually be liable for daily penalties that have no caps. Though most payroll companies are pretty good about taking care of the liabilities accurately, a simple mistake can ruin the business and bankrupt the owners. Small business also cannot afford the litigation that is often associated with it, and are too keen on the corrupt nature of the family law industry and know that they too will be guilty until proven innocent. At the end of the day even on a $300,000 annual salary, $19,000 monthly is over 100% of the take home income. There is no excuse for Tom’s death. No one to blame–except those who pushed him there. But that did not stop his wife, she was not done with the legal system. Now she wants the public to pay her for his death, despite driving him there. In 2017 she sued the prison.
[Although this story has been covered by other outlets it is so poignant that no introduction to family law can be complete without including it. Chris lived a life that was eerily similar to so many, for his children to end up fatherless is a tragedy. We recommend reading the entire series that AVFM did over the years to get the full story, including the ex-wife’s attempts to silence Chris after the grave by claiming copyright to his suicide note. RIP Christopher, may your children one day see you for the man you were.]
The pain from the emotional abuse, psychological abuse, parental alienation and legal abuse has been unbearable. My children and I were abused and when spoke out and no one did anything. No one. Not the attorneys, doctors or Judges. They all recognized the patterns of behavior and the source of conflict and turned a blind eye and then blocked me from bringing in a third party or Guardian Ad Litem to identify the abuse. At any point throughout this case, if the Court had ruled in my favor on any of my motions, the outcome would have been different. At any point, if my ex-wife had shown ANY kind of act of good faith, the outcome would have been different. The facts are that not one of my motions was ever granted by the Court and my ex-wife never once acted in good faith.
Judge Randy Bellows did not like my explanation for the conflict and chose to ignore the evidence contradictory with its views. He did not want to admit that he had been so easily mislead. There is nothing I could do to end the abuse or change the view of the Court. As long as I was the problem, there was no reason to consider an alternate narrative.
I had no power or control in my marriage and I had even less when the divorce began. It was not an accident that I ended up with no visitation with my own children and no ability to monitor their emotional welfare. It was orchestrated by attorneys who were paid not to settle and insisted on litigating every single issue without discussion. It was all done to increase the stress and pressure. Nothing I said mattered. My rights as a parent did not matter. They had the power, control, money and the kids and they were not negotiating. Even after I gave my ex-wife full custody, just to appease her. She insisted on litigating visitation, asking the Judge for “no visitation” even though there was no abuse. She also asked for all the assets in the marriage. I got absolutely nothing and I had to pay her legal bills.
The decision was made to eliminate me from my children’s lives the day I discovered that my ex-wife had hidden her father’s murder conviction, on June 23, 2008. The very next day, her father hired two attorney’s who advertise that they are ‘not the type to settle, so have your wallet open’. Their job was to “get orders” as Jim Cottrell described it in Court and keep the legal and financial pressure up as high as possible.
Make no mistake, this case was never about money or the children. My ex-wife’s multiple requests that I leave town and give up my children is evidence of that. It was about a pathological need for control and domination. I saw behind the mask and the facade and I needed to be eliminated, just like Sam Degelia needed to be eliminated for discovering Pete Scamardo was trafficking heroin. The plan was to have attorneys negatively interpret anything I say or do and then litigate every issue. I needed to be portrayed as the source of conflict, so the legal and financial pressure could be applied. With no money, I could not afford an attorney to protect me. By denying access to the Children, they would use any reaction from me to distract from the real problem. My reactions to being abused, controlled, bullied and alienated were not the source of conflict. When I spoke out or asked the Court for help, I was ignored and silenced. The patterns of high conflict behavior exist throughout my ex-wife and her family’s past. I only pointed out how the pattern seemed to match the patterns also found in ‘high-conflict’ divorce.
Refusing to negotiate or resolve differences outside of Court and then paying attorneys over $1 Million in legal fees does not lead to peace. But, that was the point. I never wanted to speak out and cause any embarrassment to my children or my ex-wife. I swear I didn’t. I only wanted to be away and free from my ex-wife and be the best father I could be. I made countless offers to settle and asked what they wanted to keep us out of Court. I never received a response to any of my requests or proposals. Actually, I did get one proposal the night before our Division of assets hearing, that was completely in bad faith and unlivable. It was not a ‘good faith’ effort.
They finally told my attorney in 2011, that if I left town and gave up all efforts to see my children, that would end the conflict. I wanted so much to be free of the litigation and the madness that I did just as they requested. I left town and moved to Dallas, TX, thinking I would never see my children again, but at least the nightmare would be over. it broke my heart and my spirit, but at least I didn’t have to worry about going to jail (or so I thought). I got a job and started going to the gym, trying to get healthy again. The first month I was in Dallas working, my ex-wife tracked me down and had Child Support Enforcement come after me. Now that I was in Dallas, I would have no ability to go to Court to change the order. When I appealed to my ex-wife’s attorney, requesting that they voluntarily lower my child support, they refused to respond. I had no leverage, so I said that if they do not voluntarily agree to a reduction, I would have no other choice but to speak out about the abuses. They decided that I was trying to extort money from them, even though I left town, as requested, and took my emails to the Commonwealth’s attorney to have me arrested for attempted extortion.
The Commonwealth’s attorney had me arrested in Dallas and extradited back to Virginia, where I was put on trial for a felony. I begged the Commonwealth’s attorney and my ex-wife to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, as I did not wish to risk a felony conviction. They both refused. This was also confirmation that my ex-wife did not care about the money or the children. So, we went to trial and I was found not guilty. I did not ask for any money from her and the child support I owe is to my children, not my ex-wife. The Jury saw that my attempts to reduce my child support were not an effort to obtain money at all, and the law supported the verdict. It was a clear effort on the Commonwealth’s attorney to silence me for threatening to speak out about the fraud of Dr. Samenow, one of their star witnesses, and the Cover-up by Judge Randy Bellows. Why else wouldn’t they accept a plea to my first criminal charge, ever? When I was released from Jail again, I asked my ex-wife’s attorney, again to voluntarily reduce my child support or to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the children. Even after they put me in jail and had me tried for a felony, they refused to show any good faith. I got no response from my ex-wife’s attorney. My child support was still far beyond my ability to pay and now I was without a job.
It was obvious to me a long time ago, that I would be ‘bullied until eternity’, as I wrote my attorney in 2008. For them to come after me again after leaving town, refuse to let me plead guilty to a lesser charge and to refuse to voluntarily reduce my child support, it was even more obvious that the only objective was to keep the legal, financial, and emotional pressure on me. I was being bullied to death.
I never wanted to speak out about any of this. All I wanted was a fair and reasonable child support, fair and reasonable visitation with my children and be free to move on with my life. The only reason I chose to write this blog and speak out about the abuse was because I thought it would give me some kind of leverage, as I had none. I made it clear to my ex-wife’s attorney that the Court was not allowing me to change the orders, I had no information about my children and my child support was far beyond my ability to pay. I was hoping for some act of good faith to let me know that they wanted to reduce the conflict. It never came, not in 5 years. I felt that my only recourse was to speak out about the abuse and injustice in order to get the legal and psychological help I needed to manage the conflict, so that we could both parent our children. I reached out to my ex-wife’s attorney again to ask for ANY other alternative. They offered none, so I started the blog. Even after I started the Blog, I reached out again to tell them I would take down the blog if a Guardian Ad Litem could be appointed. They never responded. Dina knew this would be the outcome and didn’t care. As long as I was gone.
In hindsight, I recognize that my reactions to being bullied, abused and denied access to my children gave my ex-wife’s attorney the ammunition they were looking for to bring me into Court, but nothing I said or done would have made a difference. I was powerless. I thought that at some point a third party would be involved that would recognize that my reactions were from the emotional abuse; being denied access to my children and bullied in Court. The Court refused at least 6 requests for third party intervention. All of the research said that a third party was the recommended course of action in these situations. A third party was the only way to truly understand the conflict. I was not the person being portrayed in Court. I had no control over anything. The Court would only listen to my ex-wife’s attorney granting all of their motions and agreeing to all their “over-reaching” remedies. When I read online about the patterns of behavior of high conflict divorce and how my ex-wife was the one blocking access to the children and negatively interpreting everything I did, I spoke out and tried to address the source of conflict. No one would tell me I was wrong, but no one would speak out about the abuse on my behalf, not the Doctors or attorneys.
Experts in psychology have called it abuse, but none would make such a ‘diagnosis’, which I could then take to Court to obtain relief. As long as the pattern of behavior was not called ‘abuse’, my reactions would not be viewed in its proper context, by the Court. The way I looked at it was that if I remained silent, the abuse would continue. It did. When I finally decided to speak out, they didn’t care. They didn’t care about how it would affect Dr. Samenow, Judge Bellows, our children, themselves or anyone else. They were not going to take their foot off the back of my neck. They were fully invested in having me out of my children’s lives, permanently.
Bullying and parental alienation are all forms of emotional abuse. Psychopathy is an emotional dysfunction. People with psychopathy are identified by how they handle conflict. It is the disturbing lack of empathy, guilt shame, remorse that give them away. They are completely unaffected by the distress of others. As long as they get what they want, you may never see that side of them. If you are in a position of power or status, you will probably not see that side of them either. However, people that are close to them or are of little value to them, will eventually see the pattern. They will slowly begin to realize they are being controlled manipulated and ‘gas lighted’.
Without even realizing it, you learn to go along to get along. If you break from this, you will experience their wrath. I remember on Memorial Day 2008, when I went to pick up my children for lunch at their grandparents house, Pete Scamardo came outside to confront me. I looked at him and said “Pete, you are nothing but a bully.” He responded “That’s right, and I love it!’ He said this in front of Dina, he wife and my children. When I got in the car to take my children to lunch, my son asked me “Dad, what’s a bully?”
Pete Scamardo and Dina Mackney are the most ‘successful’ father/daughter psychopaths ever to fool the Court. Pete Scamardo has over 100 lawsuits in Fairfax County alone. The litigants in these cases can confirm the patterns. The entire Scamardo family was accused of fraud by Maryland National Bank for $80 Million. Pete and Dina also circumvented the Thoroughbred Ownership licensing laws of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. One of her friends from college now refers to her the ‘c’ word after seeing the real Dina, after working with her. Most of you will not see that side of her, unless you run into conflict. While I am the one that took my own life, this was a murder conceived and financed by Pete Scamardo who hired Jim Cottrell and Kyle Bartol the day after I discovered he was a murderer, and then paid over $1 Million in legal fees to make it happen. People ‘targeted’ by psychopaths call it ‘murder by suicide’.
I was a good father to my children when I was in their lives. No one can dispute or deny that. Dr. Samenow even admitted under oath that I had a ‘palpable’ relationship with my kids. I know I was an extremely loving and positive influence on their lives and it kills me that I even feel like I have to defend my parenting. My children were the only source of joy and happiness in my marriage. For the Judge Bellows to deny parents and children a ‘palpable relationship’ and each other’s love is corruption. He did not want it to be known that Dr. Samenow committed fraud or that Judge Terrence Ney had a ‘close relationship’ with a convicted murderer or a parental alienator.
The love that my daughter and I shared was truly special. She is a such a sweet, kind and gentle spirit. I am so sorry that I will not be there to see her grow into a beautiful woman. It absolutely crushed me to not be in her life over the last three years. I worked very hard as a father to build her confidence and self-esteem. She is smart, funny and considerate, but she didn’t know it yet. I pray that she realizes her strengths and her confidence in herself will continue to grow. I love you dearly, Lily.
My son Jack was just entering Kindergarten, when I lost access to him. He is gregarious, outgoing and a great athlete. He is smart and fearless. He could have just as much fun by himself as he could with other kids. Even the older boys in our neighborhood wanted to play with Jack. It absolutely breaks my heart that I will not be able to help him grow into a man. I love you to, Jack. I miss you both so much.
My identity was taken from me, as result of this process. When it began, I was a commercial real estate broker with CB Richard Ellis. I lived by the Golden rule and made a living by bringing parties together and finding the common ground. My reputation as a broker was built on my honesty and integrity. When it ended, I was broke, homeless, unemployed and had no visitation with my own children.
I had no confidence and was paralyzed with fear that I would be going to jail whenever my ex-wife wanted. Nothing I could say or do would stop it. This is what being to death or ‘targeted’ by a psychopath looks like. This is the outcome. I didn’t somehow change into a ‘high-conflict’ person or lose my ability to steer clear of the law. I’ve had never been arrested, depressed, homeless or suicidal before this process. The stress and pressure applied to me was deliberate and nothing I could do or say would get me any relief. Nothing I or my attorneys said to my ex-wife’s attorney or to the Court made any difference. Truth, facts, evidence or even the best interest of my children had no affect on the outcome.
The family court system is broken, but from my experience, it is not the laws, its the lawyers. They feed off of the conflict. They are not hired to reduce conflict or protect the best interest of children, which is why third parties need to be involved. It should be mandatory for children to have a guardian ad litem, with extensive training in abuse and aggression.
It is absolutely shameful that the Fairfax County Court did nothing to intervene or understand the ongoing conflict. Judge Randy Bellows also used the Children as punishment, by withholding access for failing to fax a receipt. The entire conflict centered around the denial of access to the children, it was inconceivable to me that he would use children like this. This is exactly what my ex-wife was doing and now Judge Bellows was doing it for her.
To all my family, friends and the people that supported me through this process, I am so sorry. I know my reactions and behavior throughout this process did not always make sense. None of this made sense to me either. I had no help and the only suggestion I got from my attorneys was to remain silent.
At first, I did what I was told, remained silent and listened to my attorneys. Then after I had given my ex-wife full custody to try and appease her, I learned about Psychopathy and emailed Dr. Samenow about my concerns and asked him for help. Of course, I was ignored. As the conflict continued, I was forced to defend myself. When that didn’t work, I thought I could get the help I needed by speaking out. There is no right or wrong way to defend yourself from abuse. Naively, I thought that abuse was abuse and it would be recognized and something would be done. I thought speaking out would end the abuse or at least get them to back off. It didn’t. When no one did anything they were emboldened.
I took my own life because I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing I could do or say to end the abuse. Every time I got up off my knees, I would get knocked back down. They were not going to let me be the father I wanted to be to my children. People may think I am a coward for giving up on my children, but I didn’t see how I was going to heal from this. I have no money for an attorney, therapy or medication. I have lost four jobs because of this process. I was going to be at their mercy for the rest of my life and they had shown me none.
Being alienated, legally abused, emotionally abused, isolated and financially ruined are all a recipe for suicide. I wish I were stronger to keep going, but the emotional pain and fear of going to court and jail [because of exorbitant child support] became overwhelming. I became paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t flee and I could not fight. I was never going to be allowed to heal or recover. I wish I were better at articulating the psychological and emotional trauma I experienced.
I could fill a book with all the lies and mysterious rulings of the Court. Never have I experienced this kind of pain. I asked for help, but good men did nothing and evil prevailed. All I wanted was a Guardian Ad Litem for my children. Any third party would have been easily been able to confirm or refute all of my allegations, which is why none was ever appointed to protect the children or reduce the conflict.
Abuse is about power and control. Stand up for the abused and speak out. If someone speaks out about abuse, believe them. Please teach my children empathy and about emotional invalidation and ‘gas-lighting’ or they may end up like me. God have mercy on my soul. Chris Mackney
Where is the outrage? Where are the domestic violence groups coming to a victim’s aid? Where is the media coverage? Christopher’s plight was entirely his own. Had he not written this eloquent note, had the other “fringe” outlets not reported on this despite the wife’s legal threats, his story would forever be buried, that of another–“deadbeat” dad.
Ken is just one of thousands, many of whose stories are forever buried in the forgotten dockets of their respective family courts. While suicide is not the answer and will not help to solve anyone’s problems, these victims should not be forgotten.
https://www.fathersforlife.org/suicides/men_who_broke.htm has a comprehensive listing prior to 2011, though not updated since. Read those stories, and know that in nearly each one of those cases, there used to be a loving father who would one day be fishing with his grandchildren–had family court not ruined their lives.