By Bob Chiarito
Any hope that the 11-year-old daughter of Ivy Davis and Raymond C. Gunn will be returned to the U.S. by the next court date in the custody battle between divorced parents was shot down by the girl’s father Saturday.
In an interview with The Chicago Ambassador from Cook County Jail June 27, where he is currently jailed indefinitely until he brings his daughter back from Ghana, Raymond C. Gunn said that he doesn’t have the ability to return his daughter because his passport and his freedom have been taken away.
On June 22, Gunn was ordered to be jailed for contempt of court for violating a January 13 order to produce his daughter, as ordered by a Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jeanne Cleveland Bernstein. In between January 13 and June 22, Gunn failed to appear at court a couple times and has yet to comply with Judge Bernstein’s order to produce his daughter, Christina, who is now 11 and has been living in Ghana with Gunn’s father, Raymond F. Gunn, and his stepmother, Ayesha Hakeem since 2009.
The June 22 hearing was an Emergency Motion for Change in Custody by Davis in response to the filing of an affidavit in a Ghanaian court June 10, signed by Raymond C. Gunn, giving custody of his daughter to Raymond F. Gunn and Hakeem, who are both former Illinois attorneys. The result of the hearing was Judge Bernstein awarding Davis temporary custody of Christina and the jailing of Gunn. In addition, Davis’ attorney Katherine Haskins Becker confirmed that the State Department has opened an outgoing child abduction investigation and confirmed that she was told by the State Department that they would be contacting the FBI. The hearing for permanent custody, scheduled even before the emergency motion was heard, is set for July 6.
Davis and Gunn met in 2002 after she ran away from a group home in North Carolina at the age of 15. Gunn was 21 at the time. Soon after, Davis became pregnant by Gunn and he convinced her to move to Olympia Fields, where he resided with his family. They were married in 2003, by his father Raymond F. Gunn, who was also a minister.
Over the next 8 years, the marriage had its ups and downs, with Davis ultimately moving to Georgia with Christina to be closer to her mother, two years after being married. In 2009, Raymond filed for divorce and was awarded custody of their daughter. Davis, who did not have the resources to hire an attorney, claims she was bullied by the court system and her husband’s attorneys. According to the original divorce decree, the child’s father was to have sole custody, with Davis getting supervised visitation for the first 18 months, provided she post a $5,000 bond. During the divorce proceedings, there were no allegations made against Davis’ character or other factors that usually would cause a mother not to be awarded at least joint custody of her child.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy, who presided over the couple’s divorce, declined to comment for this story.
Raymond C. Gunn declined to comment through his attorney before court on June 22, but on June 27, he spoke with The Chicago Ambassador from Cook County Jail.
(Please note that Gunn’s answers are paraphrased as the Cook County Jail prohibits any writing utensils, notebooks and any type of recording equipment).
TCA) Will Christina be returned in time for the next court date on July 6?
GUNN) They took my passport and have put me in jail. How can I bring her back?
TCA) Have you called your father Raymond F. Gunn to ask him to bring her back?
TCA) Is he aware that you are currently in jail until she is brought back?
GUNN) I believe so.
TCA) Does your mother know?
TCA) Do you know if she’s reaching out to your father and Ayesha Hakeem?
GUNN) No, but they have nothing to do with this case.
TCA) They brought her back in the past. Don’t you want to get out of jail?
GUNN) They will not throw Christina to the wolves to save me.
TCA) How long are you prepared to stay in jail?
GUNN) As long as it takes to ensure that my daughter is getting a great education and being cared for like she is.
TCA) Don’t you want Christina’s mother to be part of her life?
GUNN) Yes, but she’s had her chances. She never once put up the bond to see her and never followed any court orders. Ivy has abandonment issues and has done the same to Christina as what was done to her. She likes abusive relationships — she took Christina cross-country with her truck driver boyfriend who made her pee in a bottle because he didn’t want to stop driving.
TCA) Ivy was pregnant at 15 and then married you when she was 16. Was that to protect you from a possible statutory rape charge?
GUNN) Ivy was 16, that’s the age of consent in North Carolina. She got parental permission to be married.
TCA) There is a question about whether the parental permission is valid, as she was a ward of the State of North Carolina.
GUNN) Then the marriage should be annulled.
TCA) Most outsiders seem to think the original ruling giving you sole custody and requiring Ivy to post bond to see her daughter was very questionable, and downright bizarre.
GUNN) She’s the one who cussed out the judge and threatened to take Christina away.
(Editors Note: There is no transcript of the original divorce case known to exist. On June 22, current judge Bernstein addressed the $5,000 bond that was put into place in the original divorce judgement. When told by Gunn’s attorney Linda Epstein that it was to keep Davis from fleeing to Atlanta where her mother lives, Bernstein scoffed.
“A flight risk to where? You know who took the child and who is keeping her from her mother and is guilty of that,” Bernstein said.)
TCA) You understand that Ivy contends that she did not have the money to hire representation and that because she was a resident of Georgia at the time of the divorce case, did not qualify for legal help in Cook County?
GUNN) She still had my name and my address on her license. She was going back and forth from Georgia to Illinois. She’s been claiming she’s indigent for 6 years, yet she wants to raise two kids now? Every time I bring this up in court it’s not allowed, but she can talk about me? They say it isn’t relevant, but if she’s going have custody it should be.
TCA) I believe she claimed she didn’t have the resources to hire an attorney. She testified that she has a stable job and lives in an apartment with her 3-year-old daughter currently. Are you aware that the State Department is investigating this as a child abduction?
GUNN) Calling it an abduction or a kidnapping are just lies.
TCA) Your father knew the court-appointed child representative in the original divorce, Lester Barclay, right?
GUNN) Yes, so what? The current judge should take pictures with Ivy’s side because she’s with them. She’s very biased.
TCA) But your father and Barclay both went to Oberlin College in Ohio, I found out they graduated 6 years apart. Both were from the same neighborhood?
GUNN) No, they were not from the same neighborhood.
TCA) But they were friends?
GUNN) They knew each other.
TCA) When was the last time you saw your daughter?
GUNN) December of 2013.
TCA) Don’t you miss her?
GUNN) Yes, but she’s getting a great education. She knows four languages and is a star student and is being taken care of by my family.
TCA) Ivy Davis and her attorney claim that she has not been given any visitation and very limited ability to even call her daughter.
GUNN) She can go see her whenever she wants. She can call anytime, Skype with her. These are lies.
TCA) Going to Ghana is quite expensive.
GUNN) All she has to do is get a passport. My family would have bought her a ticket.
TCA) How does this end? Can you sit here in jail for a year or more?
GUNN) I’ll sit here for as long as it takes.
CA) When will your daughter come back to live in the U.S.?
GUNN) For college. For her school now, there is nothing close to as good in the U.S. She’ll come back when she attends Harvard or Stanford, or maybe Dartmouth.
In response to the interview with Raymond C. Gunn, Katherine Haskins Becker and Brent Christensen, attorneys for Ivy Davis, released the following statement June 28:
Mr. Gunn claims that the reason he can’t return the child is because he’s in custody and that he doesn’t have his passport.
This suggests that he now agrees that the child should be brought back to the United States and that he would cooperate in doing so if he were released. It also suggests he is recanting the affidavit he submitted to a Ghanaian court stating that his father, and stepmother should have legal custody.
This is a significant change. If Mr. Gunn agrees that permanent legal custody should be changed to Ivy Davis and that he joins Ivy in withdrawing any authorization that their child remain in Ghana, then we would welcome that decision.
But that in itself does not return this child.
Clearly Mr. Gunn does not have the wherewithal to overcome the influence that Ayesha Hakeem and his father have in retaining the child in Ghana. But if Mr. Gunn and Ms. Davis are both on the same page, then the Justice Department and FBI can proceed to deal with Hakeem and Gunn’s father as kidnappers and the State Department can continue its work in re-uniting this child with her mother.