Blakeney v. McRee, No. 2014–CP–00296–SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtWALLER, Chief Justice, for the Court
Citation188 So.3d 1154
Decision Date25 February 2016
Docket NumberNo. 2014–CP–00296–SCT.
Parties John Christopher BLAKENEY a/k/a John Christopher Paul Blakeney a/k/a John C.P. Blakeney a/k/a Chris Blakeney v. Don McREE and Carolyn McRee.

188 So.3d 1154

John Christopher BLAKENEY a/k/a John Christopher Paul Blakeney a/k/a John C.P. Blakeney a/k/a Chris Blakeney
v.
Don McREE and Carolyn McRee.

No. 2014–CP–00296–SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Feb. 25, 2016.
Rehearing Denied May 5, 2016.


188 So.3d 1155

John Blakeney, appellant, pro se.

Michael D. Mitchell, Laurel, for appellee.

EN BANC.

WALLER, Chief Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. John Blakeney appeals the judgment of the Jones County Chancery Court granting Don and Carolyn McRee's petition to adopt his minor children and terminating his parental rights. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

188 So.3d 1156

FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2. In July 2006, John and his wife Wanda were arrested for the murders of Willie Earl and Anita Kitchens, Wanda's biological grandparents and legal parents. John confessed to the murders when he was arrested. Blakeney v. State, 29 So.3d 46, 48 (Miss.Ct.App.2009). John, Wanda, and their minor children A.B. and C.B.1 lived with Willie Earl and Anita at the time of the murders. Id. According to John's confession, Wanda decided to kill Willie Earl and Anita after getting into a dispute with them over money she owed them. Id. John purchased a TASER stun gun and planned to use it to kill Willie Earl, who had a weak heart. Id. On the morning of the murders, John shot the victims with the stun gun while they were sleeping. Id. at 49. When the shock did not kill them, John suffocated them with a garbage bag. Id. John then dressed the bodies, placed them in Willie Earl's car, and drove the car out to Highway 84, east of Waynesboro, where he abandoned it. Id. John also unsuccessfully attempted to set the car on fire. Id. Wanda followed John in another vehicle. Id. John rode home with Wanda and then drove to Denham Springs, Louisiana, where he had reserved a hotel room. Id. A.B. and C.B. were present for the murders and rode with Wanda to pick up John after he had abandoned the victims' bodies. Id. John ultimately was convicted of one count of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, and Wanda was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.2 Since John's and Wanda's arrests, A.B. and C.B. have lived with Carolyn McRee and her husband Don McRee. Carolyn McRee is Wanda's biological mother and Willie Earl's and Anita's biological daughter. John and Wanda have not seen their children since their arrests.

¶ 3. On April 5, 2012, Don and Carolyn McRee filed a petition in the Jones County Chancery Court to adopt A.B. and C.B. Notably, the McRees' adoption petition does not request the termination of John's and Wanda's parental rights. In response, John and Wanda requested the chancery court to issue a summons requiring the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) to secure their appearance before the court to answer the adoption petition. On June 11, 2012, the chancellor held a Rule 81 hearing. See Miss. R. Civ. P. 81. John appeared at the hearing and voiced his intent to contest the adoption. After the hearing, the chancellor entered an order appointing attorney Cecilia Arnold as guardian ad litem ("GAL") for A.B. and C.B. and setting a trial date. The chancellor also entered an order instructing MDOC personnel to transport John to the Jones County Chancery Court for the trial.

¶ 4. The chancellor held a trial on the adoption petition on January 9, 2014. John and Wanda both participated in the trial, but neither was represented by counsel. Don and Carolyn McRee testified, and John and Wanda were allowed to cross-examine them. John and Wanda also were allowed to give statements to the chancellor. A.B. and C.B. did not testify, nor does it appear that they were present at the trial.

¶ 5. Also during the trial on the adoption petition, the GAL presented her report.

188 So.3d 1157

During her investigation, the GAL learned that Don and Carolyn McRee were granted full custody of A.B. and C.B. immediately following John's and Wanda's arrests in 2006, and John and Wanda were ordered to have no contact with their children without court permission. John had procured a cell phone while he was incarcerated, and his parents had assisted him in talking to A.B. and C.B. by phone when they visited the children at Don and Carolyn McRee's house.3

¶ 6. The GAL never visited Wanda in prison, apparently because Carolyn McRee had told her that Wanda did not plan to contest the adoption. However, the GAL did exchange several letters with Wanda. Wanda maintained that she did not kill Willie Earl or Anita. Wanda also stated that Carolyn McRee had told her that her children did not want to visit her because they "did not want to go to the prison." The GAL learned that Wanda believed she would be released from prison at some point and her children would be able to return to her. However, she also believed that A.B. and C.B. were happy with Carolyn and Don McRee and were being raised properly. According to the GAL, Wanda did not seem to understand the permanent effects of an adoption.

¶ 7. The GAL interviewed John at the South Mississippi Correctional Facility in Leakesville. John had exhausted his state-court appeals but claimed he was working on a federal appeal, though he was not represented by an attorney at the time. John maintained that he had no part in Willie Earl's and Anita's murders, even though he had confessed to the crimes when he was arrested, had been convicted, and had lost his state-court appeal. John was afraid that Carolyn McRee was using the adoption proceeding to exact revenge on John for murdering her parents, but the GAL did not find any evidence supporting this fear. Like Wanda, John believed his conviction would be overturned and he would be able to care for the children himself. John expressed concern that A.B. and C.B. would be in contact with Carolyn McRee's ex-husband Garth Brewer, who he claimed was a child-molester. John did not want his children's last names changed, nor did he want the children to be restricted from visiting him, but he was otherwise agreeable to the adoption at the time of the interview.

¶ 8. The GAL also interviewed Carolyn and Don McRee. Carolyn has four daughters of her own, and Don has three daughters, whom Carolyn adopted when she married Don. A.B. and C.B. have their own rooms at the McRees' house, and they seemed to bond well with the McRees' children. The GAL opined that the McRees appeared to have the financial and emotional resources needed to raise A.B. and C.B. Carolyn McRee visited Wanda in prison every few months, but she did not take the children with her, and she did not talk about Wanda around the children. Carolyn McRee claimed that Wanda and John had not provided any financial support for the children since their arrests, though they did send birthday cards and occasional gifts. Carolyn McRee allowed John's parents to visit the children, but she asked them not to allow the children to talk to John over the phone. She claimed that John's parents abruptly stopped visiting about three years after John was convicted. When the GAL interviewed John's

188 So.3d 1158

parents, they told her they stopped visiting because the McRees had made their visits too difficult. Carolyn McRee asserted that she maintains only minimal phone contact with her ex-husband Garth regarding their own children, and that he was allowed to be in contact with A.B. and C.B. only under adult supervision.

¶ 9. By the time the GAL interviewed A.B. and C.B., they had been in the custody of Don and Carolyn McRee for approximately eight years. A.B. was nine years old, and C.B. was ten years old. Both children seemed to understand the adoption process and seemed to be excited about the prospect of being adopted. At the time of the murders, A.B. was two years old, and C.B. was three years old. A.B. claimed to remember witnessing the murders, but the GAL doubted that he had any independent recollection of the events. C.B. told the GAL that she did not remember anything about the murders, but Carolyn McRee told the GAL that C.B. previously had told her details about the murders that only an eyewitness could know. Carolyn McRee also told the GAL that C.B. had suffered from nightmares for two weeks after the murders. C.B. underwent counseling for approximately a year after the murders. Carolyn McRee once overheard C.B. tell John over the phone that she wanted to live with him when he got out of prison. C.B. later told Carolyn McRee that she had told John what he wanted to hear because "he doesn't know everything I know."

¶ 10. At the conclusion of her report, the GAL recognized that John had been convicted of murder, was serving a life sentence, and had exhausted his state appeals. She also voiced the belief that John's chance of succeeding in a federal appeal without the assistance of an attorney was "slim to none." After reviewing the documents and testimony she had collected, the GAL saw "no alternative except to terminate the parental rights of Wanda and John Blakeney to [C.B.] and [A.B.] and allow the children to be adopted by Carolyn and Don McRee." She also recommended that restrictions be put in place so Garth could not visit the children.

¶ 11. At the conclusion of...

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12 practice notes
  • Gonzalez v. Coastal Indus. Contractors, Inc., NO. 2019-CA-01435-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 25 Marzo 2021
    ...support her argument. "[F]ailure to cite authority in support of [an] argument precludes consideration on appeal." Blakeney v. McRee , 188 So. 3d 1154, 1165 (¶ 28) (Miss. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting In re Guardianship of Snodgrass , 692 So. 2d 85, 87 (Miss. 1997) ). Ac......
  • Edwards v. Reanna S. Zyla Sean P. Edwards, NO. 2015-IA-00805-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 17 Noviembre 2016
    ...and problems. Edwards also does not cite any authority, so we decline to address the issue. See M.R.A.P. 28(a)(7); Blakeney v. McRee, 188 So. 3d 1154, 1165 (¶28) (Miss. 2016).CONCLUSION¶22. We hold that an Arizona court is more appropriate to hear the instant case, so we affirm the chancery......
  • M.A.S. v. Lamar Cnty. Dep't of Child Prot. Servs., 2020-CA-00070-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 21 Septiembre 2021
    ...a result of the timing of the court's explanation of the rights set forth in Section 93-15-113(2). ¶50. Similarly, in Blakeney v. McRee, 188 So.3d 1154, 1160 (¶16) (Miss. 2016), the supreme court considered the failure of the chancery court to make an on-the-record determination of whether ......
  • Edwards v. Zyla, NO. 2015–IA–00805–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 17 Noviembre 2016
    ...and problems. Edwards also does not cite any authority, so we decline to address the issue. See M.R.A.P. 28(a)(7) ; Blakeney v. McRee , 188 So.3d 1154, 1165 (¶ 28) (Miss. 2016).CONCLUSION¶ 22. We hold that an Arizona court is more appropriate to hear the instant case, so we affirm the chanc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Gonzalez v. Coastal Indus. Contractors, Inc., NO. 2019-CA-01435-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 25 Marzo 2021
    ...support her argument. "[F]ailure to cite authority in support of [an] argument precludes consideration on appeal." Blakeney v. McRee , 188 So. 3d 1154, 1165 (¶ 28) (Miss. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting In re Guardianship of Snodgrass , 692 So. 2d 85, 87 (Miss. 1997) ). Ac......
  • Edwards v. Reanna S. Zyla Sean P. Edwards, NO. 2015-IA-00805-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 17 Noviembre 2016
    ...and problems. Edwards also does not cite any authority, so we decline to address the issue. See M.R.A.P. 28(a)(7); Blakeney v. McRee, 188 So. 3d 1154, 1165 (¶28) (Miss. 2016).CONCLUSION¶22. We hold that an Arizona court is more appropriate to hear the instant case, so we affirm the chancery......
  • M.A.S. v. Lamar Cnty. Dep't of Child Prot. Servs., 2020-CA-00070-COA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Mississippi
    • 21 Septiembre 2021
    ...a result of the timing of the court's explanation of the rights set forth in Section 93-15-113(2). ¶50. Similarly, in Blakeney v. McRee, 188 So.3d 1154, 1160 (¶16) (Miss. 2016), the supreme court considered the failure of the chancery court to make an on-the-record determination of whether ......
  • Edwards v. Zyla, NO. 2015–IA–00805–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • 17 Noviembre 2016
    ...and problems. Edwards also does not cite any authority, so we decline to address the issue. See M.R.A.P. 28(a)(7) ; Blakeney v. McRee , 188 So.3d 1154, 1165 (¶ 28) (Miss. 2016).CONCLUSION¶ 22. We hold that an Arizona court is more appropriate to hear the instant case, so we affirm the chanc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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