Couple charged with forgery in baby custody case

2014-03-18T16:59:00Z 2014-03-18T22:36:14Z Couple charged with forgery in baby custody caseStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 18, 2014 4:59 pm  • 

A man and woman are charged with producing a counterfeit court order containing the forged signature of a judge in Michigan City to gain custody of another woman's unborn baby.

Detectives are not discussing the case because of the ongoing investigation, but the police report lists the offense as an attempted kidnapping.

LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Michael Bergerson said the couple's alleged intentions are not clear yet, but the fake court order presented to hospital staff granted the father of the baby custody after birth.

"It's bizarre and we'll get to the bottom of it," Bergerson said.

Sarah Freese, 36, and Michael Shore, 25, of New Carlisle, were arrested on warrants Tuesday at the courthouse in Michigan City.

They are expected to be arraigned Thursday on Class C felony forgery.

According to police, Freese visited the office of LaPorte Superior Court 2 Judge Richard Stalbrink Jr. on March 4 and filed paperwork for an unspecified reason over her husband's unborn child with the expecting mother.

The judge set a hearing for March 18 to hear both parties.

On March 11, though, Shore was at Franciscan St. Anthony Health stating he was the father of the child the woman's unborn child and presented documents suggesting after birth he was to have full custody after the baby's release from the hospital, police said.

The documents contained what appeared to be Stalbrink's signature.

Police were called when medical staff members contacted the judge and learned the documents were not legitimate. The mother was still in the hospital maternity ward at the time.

Prosecutors were not sure how the counterfeit court order with the forged signature was made, but believe the judge's signature from another court documents was somehow cut and pasted to the fake custody order.

LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said state law mandates custody awarded immediately to the mother in births to parents who are not married.

To try and gain custody, Szilagyi said the father from an unwed couple must file a petition for the court to decide.

The court likely wouldn't hear arguments from both parties, though, unless there were allegations the mother was posing a danger to the child, Szilagyi said.

According to courtroom officials, the request in the motion filed by Freese over the baby her husband fathered cannot be revealed publicly because information in paternity cases must be kept confidential except for the parties involved in the case.

LaPorte County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Neary said more charges could be forthcoming.

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