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CROWN POINT — Christopher Hardin, the father of 4-year-old Khristopher Gober, who was killed with another child last week in a fire at a Gary apartment complex, said he attended a custody hearing in Lake County Juvenile Court six days before the fire, seeking sole custody, because he had concerns about the boy's safety and care.

He said he also was upset with a Lake County criminal court judge's decision Monday to lower the bond a second time for Kristen Gober, 33.

Lake County criminal court Judge Diane Boswell lowered the defendant's surety bond Monday to $125,000, from the original $200,000.

“Basically, there is no justice for my son or the little girl,” Hardin, 31, said. “I saw Kristen crying and boo-hooing, and they felt more pity for her than the children.”

Gober is charged with three counts of neglect of a dependent and marijuana possession on allegations she left her three children unattended in her apartment March 25 at Lakeshore Dunes Apartments, 5820 Forest Court.

The children allegedly started a fire on the apartment's stove, which quickly spread. Kailani Gober, 2, and Khristopher Gober, 4, died of smoke inhalation as a result of the fire. The defendant's 6-year-old son was able to escape the apartment. The fire displaced dozens of residents of the multistory apartment building.

Hardin said he was involved in a custody and child support dispute with Gober at the time of his child's death.

He said at the juvenile court custody hearing nearly a week before the fire, he requested Magistrate Judge Katherine* Garza grant him sole custody of Khristopher due to concerns he had for the boy's safety.

“She asked me why I was seeking custody, and I told her I was in fear for my son's life,” Hardin said. “And her exact response was, 'Well, Mr. Hardin, everything takes time.' ”

Garza scheduled a mediation hearing for April 27, according to court records Hardin provided The Times.

Hardin said he was hardly able to eat or sleep since the fire. He said his mind was always racing, and it was only when he was physically exhausted that he could get a few hours rest.

Garza did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

Defense argues for lower bond

The new bond reduction came at the request of defense attorney T. Edward Page. Page told Boswell his client would be unable to post the $12,500 in cash required to be released from jail, but the lower amount was the standard bail for a defendant charged with Gober's criminal offenses.

He acknowledged the community was angry with Gober. He asked the public to remember Gober lost two children as a result of the fire and was receiving counseling at the jail as a result.

Gober, sobbing and in a green jail uniform, stood with Page during Monday's hearing. Her dark hair was cut short and colored with red highlights. 

Page declined to comment on Gober's emotional state in an interview after the hearing. He said ultimately what his client sought from the courts was fairness and justice.

“When the death of children are involved, it can sometimes be hard for people to see through all their emotions and get to the right result,” Page said.

The state objected to Monday's bond reduction.

Deputy Prosecutor Maureen Koonce argued Gober was a flight risk and danger to the community.

At the time of the fire, Gober was wanted by police on a warrant for failure to appear in court on a misdemeanor conversion case filed in Lake Station City Court in October.

The defendant was previously charged in 2007 and 2010 with public intoxication in Merrillville, Koonce said, and was essentially homeless as a result of the fire.

Koonce said Gober's decision not to call police about the fire suggested she was a danger to the community. Gober also had numerous reports filed against her with the Indiana Department of Child Services, Koonce said.

Gober is next scheduled to appear in court May 21.

A GoFundMe account was created to help pay for funeral services for Khristopher Gober. Donations can be made at gofundme.com/for-baby-kriss-death.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Magistrate Judge Katherine Garza. 

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Courts and social justice reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.