SACHSE (CBSDFW.COM) – Seventeen-year-old Joseph Offutt knew Eryk McCall looked up to him. Their mothers were friends, and the seven-year-old turned to him for advice.
“It felt nice to be a role model for somebody,” Offutt said. “He’d always ask me, ‘Why is mommy and daddy always fighting?’”
Friday, police say Karen Hayslett McCall shot and killed her only son, then herself, marking the end of a long, bitter custody battle with her husband.
An hour earlier, a jury had decided McCall’s parental rights should be terminated and gave full custody of Eryk to his father. Contentious divorce proceedings between the two had dragged out for more than a year and a half.
Court records show Eryk’s mother asked for protective orders, while accusing his father, Randy McCall, of abuse.
Offutt says his young friend confided in him about the abuse and had once clung to him to avoid a visit with his dad.
“He wouldn’t let go. His dad had to pull him off me, and it was the sickest feeling in my stomach to let him go,” he said.
An attorney for Eryk’s father, Charlie Philips, though, said his mother coached the boy to make false accusations against his father. Philips called it “the worst case of parental alienation” he’d ever witnessed.
In trial, he says roughly 10 witnesses – including psychiatrists, counselors, doctors, and medical staff – provided evidence McCall had coerced her son to make claims against his father.
“I can’t imagine, you know, the drama that went on,” said David Wolfe, who lived across the street from the family’s home.
He said he sometimes witnessed custody exchanges, and he disputes claims the boy was terrified of his father.
“He seemed happy to be going with his dad,” he said. “I would think that was wrong. That’s my personal thought ‘cause that little boy loved his dad.”
Police investigated the abuse claims and cleared the father of all charges.