No. 207 March Term, 1977 Appeal from Decree of the Orphans' Court of McKean County at No. 15 December Term, 1974
John M. Cleland, Woods, Baker & Cleland, Kane, for appellant.
Richard W. Mutzabaugh, Bradford, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case. Roberts, J., files a dissenting opinion.
This is an appeal by the natural mother from the final decree entered in the Court of Common Pleas of McKean
County, Orphans' Court Division, ordering the involuntary termination of her parental rights in her minor child, H.E.W. Following entry of the decree nisi, appellant filed an exception, which was denied. The court entered a final decree terminating the parental rights of appellant and this appeal followed.
The facts are as follows. Appellant, Sandra Barber Williams, married Larry Shafer Williams on April 3, 1968. A child, H.E.W., was born to the couple on October 6, 1968. In October of 1973, while residing in Rochester, New York, appellant and her husband entered into a separation agreement, under the terms of which appellant was to retain custody of H.E.W. However, on November 3, 1973, at the request of appellant, the father, Larry Williams, took custody of the child. On April 13, 1974, Larry Williams died. Appellee Claudia Thoma is the sister of Larry Williams, and upon the death of her brother, and with the consent of appellant, the Thomas returned with H.E.W. to their home in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and retained custody of her there.
On October 31, 1974, the Thomas filed a petition for involuntary termination of parental rights in the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of McKean County. The petition set out as grounds in support that appellant, since April 13, 1974 (the date of Larry Williams' death) "has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing her parental claim to [the] child and has refused and failed to perform her parental duties." A decree was entered by the trial court scheduling a hearing on the petition for November 26, 1974. On November 4, 1974, appellant, still residing in New York, was served by mail with a copy of the petition and decree.
On November 11, 1974, appellant went to Bradford, Pennsylvania, removed H.E.W. from school, and returned with her to New York. On November 26, 1974, the hearing on the Thomas' petition was held and a decree entered terminating appellant's parental rights and ...