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BROWARDPublished Tuesday, September 26, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Ex-wife testifies in custody battle


For 2 1/2 years, Paul Scott Abbott has waged his battle in newsprint, in cyberspace and over the airwaves to regain custody of his daughter. Monday, Abbott took his fight to the courtroom.

In the first day of a hearing in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom over Abbott's fitness as a parent, Abbott's ex-wife, Linda Marie Abbott, described their stormy, often violent marriage to Broward Circuit Judge Daniel True Andrews, a visiting judge from Polk County who was asked to preside over the hearing after several Broward judges were disqualified.

In April 1998, Abbott's daughter was taken from his custody by investigators from the Florida Department of Children and Families. In their first petition, they said Abbott failed to protect his daughter from his ex-wife, who was accused of burning her fingertips and giving her a swollen lip.

In later petitions, however, lawyers with the Florida Attorney General's Office, who represent the Department of Children and Families in Broward dependency court, said the little girl was at risk of suffering sexual abuse at her father's hands. They say she has exhibited inappropriate sexual behavior following supervised visits with her dad.
In her testimony, Linda Abbott told the judge she saw signs of a minor burn on her daughter's fingertips when Paul Abbott brought the girl for a visit in the spring of 1998. Paul Abbott called police about the burns later, and said he saw them for the first time after the girl's visit with her mother.

Linda Abbott described several incidents in which the couple fought, at one point suggesting that Paul Abbott had trouble coping with ``frustrations.''

The Abbotts argued over issues as seemingly innocent as Paul's rocking the little girl to sleep at night -- and as serious as Linda's outrage over a picture of Paul in an embrace with Kathy Willets, who ran a $2,000-per-week prostitution ring out of her Tamarac home in the late 1980s.*

When Linda Abbott discovered the photo, she said, she trashed his office, throwing files onto the floor. Abbott, who is a lay pastor at two Lutheran churches, also has worked for several years as a freelance journalist.

Linda Abbott acknowledged that she had been charged with aggravated child abuse in January 1982 after an incident in which she shook her son, Steven, hard enough to break his clavicle. She also acknowledged once trying to poison the family cat, Fred, by spraying his face with most of a can of Raid insect spray.

She called Paul Abbott after she emptied the can, and told him to take the cat to the veterinarian.

``You were not concerned about the cat; you were concerned about being arrested?'' attorney Brett P. Rogers asked Linda Abbott during cross examination.

``Both,'' she replied. ``I know it's hard for you to believe,'' she said, ``but I do have a heart.''

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Copyright 2000 Miami Herald

This text appeared in the Miami Herald on the date above. It is reproduced here without any alteration to text.

* Note: Kathy Willets, a well heeded prostitute, appeared at a journalism fund raiser "roaster" (dinner) that Paul attended. He was president of the Society of Professional Journalists' that year.