Parents of Murdered Toddler Fight For Custody of Surviving Children

(LOUISVILLE, November 15, 2001, 7:17 p.m.) -- Police say they detained the parents while child protection officers moved in to take children they believed to be in danger. Thursday's court proceeding were in family court and confidential, but the father told reporters he still does not have custody or a satisfactory reason why.

At just two-years-old, little Christopher Johnson was full of life. "I've got a child to bury on Saturday," said Christopher's father, Todd Johnson. But his death is tearing a family apart. "I don't even know if they're going to let my children come to the funeral. This is wrong," said Johnson.

Johnson and Christopher's mother, Susan Hagan, are fighting for custody of their surviving children, ages 6, 4, and 7-months. State officials took the children into protective custody Wednesday after Christopher died from serious head injuries and strangulation.

Arlis Gross, 34-years-old, is charged with the murder. He's Hagan's current boyfriend and the father of the 7-month-old. Police say Gross was watching Christopher at the time of the fatal injuries.

Outside the closed courtroom, friends of the family sat in support of Johnson and Hagan. "He's the kind of dad most kids would want," said William Deming, a family friend. "They have no right. Haven't given him time to grieve."

Johnson and Hagan still say they have not been given any reasons why their children were taken away.

Online Reporter: David McArthur

Online Author: Melissa Schantz

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