DALLAS (AP) — An East Texas woman, her brother and her parents are charged with carrying out a scheme to kill the woman’s ex-husband and new wife as both sides were embroiled in a custody dispute over a 5-year-old girl, authorities said Wednesday.
Sheriff’s deputies in Tyler County arrested four people Tuesday night in the parking lot of the church where Nathan and Krystal Maddox were gunned down in January after visiting the girl.
Nathan Maddox’s ex-wife Kristen Westfall; her brother, Cameron; and her parents, Letha and Paul Westfall, all were indicted on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. They were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. Christine R. Brown-Zeto, an attorney for Kristen Westfall, did not immediately return a phone message.
Letha Westfall had custody of the girl, but the Westfall family was fighting Nathan Maddox in court.
Phil Ryan, the chief deputy in Tyler County, said that the custody battle was the likely motive.
“They were worried that Nathan was doing better in his life and might get custody of the little girl,” Ryan said.
Authorities have not charged any of the four with murder, as investigators are still trying to determine who shot the couple, Ryan said.
The couple died in the attack Jan. 18 outside Mount Carmel Baptist Church near Colmesneil, about 110 miles northeast of Houston. Their daughter was inside the church with Letha Westfall, who had brought her for a supervised visit with her father, said Shari Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
After the shootings, state authorities placed the girl in a foster home in an undisclosed location, Pulliam said. The girl did not see the shooting, but is aware of the deaths of her father and stepmother, she said.
“We did not know who the shooter was,” Pulliam said. “We were fearful for her life.”
The court battle for custody has continued after the couple’s deaths, with three days of hearings so far.
State authorities want the girl placed in foster care and said they found drug paraphernalia in Letha Westfall’s home, as well as a gun on a nightstand within easy reach of the girl, Pulliam said.
Nathan Maddox’s father, Jim, has since petitioned to become his granddaughter’s primary caregiver. Jim Maddox’s attorney, Ryan Deaton of Lufkin, said Wednesday it had been a struggle to get Nathan Maddox time to visit his daughter.
“No one even knew where he was getting his visits or how those visits were going to go or anything,” Deaton said. “The only people who did know were the Westfalls and my clients. It would have been impossible for anyone else to do this.”
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