IN RE P.O. et al
Submitted On Briefs July 1, 2015.
On the briefs: Randy G. Day, Esq., Garland, for appellant father.
Joseph P. Belisle, Esq., Bangor, for appellant mother.
Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services.
Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, and JABAR, JJ.
[¶1] The parents of P.O., J.O., and N.O. appeal from a judgment entered in the District Court (Bangor, Campbell, J. ) terminating their parental rights to their three children after the youngest child, N.O., handled her parents' gun and accidentally shot herself while her mother was at work and her father was in the home. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2) (2014). We affirm the judgment.
[¶2] In the fall of 2013, three-year-old N.O. obtained access to a loaded firearm in the family home and suffered a serious gunshot wound while her older siblings, who were five and six years old, were present in the home. In an earlier child protection matter that same year, the parents had been warned by the Department of Health and Human Services of ongoing concerns regarding the safe possession and use of firearms. Nonetheless, on October 30, 2013, the parents left a loaded semi-automatic handgun in reach of the three children. While the mother was at work and the father was doing other things in the home, N.O. got the gun and shot herself in the neck. When the police responded after the gunshot, they found steroids, syringes, and $3,500 in cash in the residence.
[¶3] The Department petitioned for a child protection order for the three children, and the court granted the Department's request for a preliminary protection order. The children were placed in the care of their maternal grandparents.
[¶4] After the appointment of counsel, the parents each waived the opportunity for a summary preliminary hearing. The court appointed the same guardian ad litem who had, earlier in 2013, been appointed in the previous child protection matter involving the family.
[¶5] With the agreement of the parents, the court entered a jeopardy order on February 12, 2014. See 22 M.R.S. § 4035 (2014). Jeopardy was based on (1) the circumstances that led to N.O.'s injuries, which persisted despite the Department's earlier warnings to the parents about the safe use and possession of firearms; (2) the children's reports that they had witnessed the father's violence toward their mother and another person; (3) the recovery of needles, steroids, and cash from the home by police; and (4) the children's observation of needles in the home and awareness of where the needles were kept. ...