Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of York County, No. 5979.
Donald B. Hoyt, York, for appellants.
Wanda Neuhaus, York, for appellees.
Cirillo, President Judge, and Wieand and Del Sole, JJ.
[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 265]
The issue in this appeal is whether the Orphans' Court in York County, Pennsylvania, could properly order an adoption of two minor children upon the sole consent of the children's father, who had killed the children's mother, while a custody action was pending in New York between the children's father and maternal grandparents, without notice to the maternal grandparents or the New York court in which the custody action was pending.
On December 4, 1983, the children's father killed their mother by stabbing her to death in the family's home in Brooktondale, Tompkins County, New York. At the time of
[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 266]
the stabbing, B.E.W.G., then ten months of age, was present in the home, but S.L.W.G., then four years of age, was visiting her paternal grandfather in New York City. Afterwards, the paternal grandfather also took B.E.W.G. to his home.
On December 21, 1983, the maternal grandparents, Howard and Kay West, filed a petition in the Tompkins County Family Court to obtain custody of their grandchildren. The children's father had been released on bail, however, and, by order of March 26, 1984, the New York court placed the children in his custody, while awarding visitation privileges to the Wests. This order was to remain in effect until the criminal charges against the father were determined. On May 15, 1984, the Tompkins County Court continued its custody order in effect but expanded the Wests' visitation privileges. Thereafter, the father took the children from their home in New York, and the Wests did not see them again.
On May 22, 1984, the children's father was found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the killing of his wife, the children's mother.*fn1 Thereafter, on May 29, 1984, the Tompkins County Family Court entered an order awarding temporary custody of S.L.W.G. and B.E.W.G. to the Wests pending further hearing. When an additional hearing was held on June 11, 1984, the father refused to disclose the whereabouts of the children. The New York court thereupon continued temporary custody in the Wests. On November 9, 1984, a final order was entered which awarded permanent custody of the children to their maternal grandparents.
In August, 1985, the grandparents learned for the first time that the children were living with adoptive parents somewhere in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to them, the children's father had delivered the children to Tressler-Lutheran Associates, Inc. of York, ...