York County Family Court records show that the 9-year-old girl found shot to death in a Rock Hill home on Friday morning had been placed in temporary custody of the grandmother who died with her, and the grandfather suspected of killing them both.
Police say Mia Rodgers and her paternal grandmother, Barbara Gregory, 71, were found dead inside their home on Idlewild Drive, apparently shot by Ronald Gregory, 67, who is Barbara Gregory’s husband.
The family court records detail a complicated custody fight for Mia that continued at least until last month.
The Gregorys had won a battle for temporary custody in October 2013 after an expedited family court hearing. At the time, Mia’s mother, Angie Lee Benoit of Texas, was hospitalized in that state for treatment of Leukemia, and Mia was living in Rock Hill with her maternal grandparents, Paul and Nina Rodgers, according to court records.
On Oct. 10, a York County judge ruled in favor of the Gregorys and Mia’s father, Kevin Gregory, granting all three temporary custody. He granted the Rodgers visitation rights to see Mia every other weekend.
Less than two months after the Gregorys were awarded temporary custody, Benoit died.
One month later, in January, Benoit’s brother, Eric Rodgers of Alabama, filed papers with York County’s Family Court asking for custody of Mia.
Eric Rodgers’ petition to the court for custody of Mia included Benoit’s will, which names him as the guardian to her two children. Mia’s half-brother, Alex, now lives with Eric Rodgers and his wife and two children, court records show.
In his custody request for Mia, Eric Rodgers wrote that Mia and Alex’s mother “knew that in my home, they would know they have someone to love and care for them in their mother’s absence.”
He cites Benoit’s May 2013 attempt to terminate Kevin Gregory’s parental rights over Mia. The action resulted in a custody battle in San Patricio County, Texas, where the Gregorys and Mia’s father had filed to “establish parentage” in April 2013.
The York County court documents obtained by The Herald are unclear about the outcome of the April 2013 Texas custody case.
The records also do not indicate that a decision had been made in Eric Rodgers’ January 2014 custody case.
A guardian ad litem had been assigned to investigate Mia’s home life with the Gregorys and other issues related to the custody request filed by Eric Rodgers.
The guardian ad litem’s pre-trial report was filed on Feb. 27, after she met with several people including Mia, both sets of her grandparents, her father and her teacher. She also spoke with many other relatives and family friends.
The court-appointed guardian ad litem wrote that she had “no concerns about Mia staying with the paternal grandparents and her father.” After moving many times during her life, Mia needed stability and a permanent home, according to the guardian ad litem’s report.
Pending a final decision on custody, Mia needed to stay with the Gregorys to finish school, the report states. She was also supposed to start counseling in early March.
The guardian ad litem report concluded in November that “this is a sad situation for Mia and her various family members (are) ready, willing and able to provide a home...unfortunately, it is not in Mia’s best interest to continue to be shuffled from one home to the other.”