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Illinois Supreme Court will not hear appeal of custody ruling

Associated Press, U.S.A., Nov. 06, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. U.S.A.- The Illinois Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of an appellate court's decision to grant a convicted child killer custody of her 3-year-old son.

The Illinois 4th District Appellate Court ruled March 10 that the parental rights of Sheryl Hardy, 36, should be reinstated and that she and her husband, Randy Hardy, should regain full custody of their 3-year-old son.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office filed an appeal of the decision with the state Supreme Court, but the justices announced Friday they had decided not to hear the case, which means the Appellate Court's ruling will stand and that Sheryl Hardy will have full parental rights to her son.

The case stems from the 1989 death of Hardy's 2-year-old son, Bradley McGee. During the trial in Florida, Hardy testified that she smoked a cigarette while her former husband, Thomas Coe, punished the boy for soiling his pants by lifting him by his ankles and repeatedly dunking him in the toilet. The boy died the next day of head injuries, and a medical examiner counted more than 90 cuts and bruises across the boy's body and head.

Hardy admitted in court to abusing Bradley, including forcing him to eat his own feces.

Coe was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Hardy was convicted of second-degree murder. Hardy served nine years of a 30-year sentence and was released from a Florida prison because of jail overcrowding.

Hardy returned to Illinois, settling in her hometown of Jerseyville, about 60 miles southwest of Springfield. She married Randy Hardy in July 2001 and gave birth to her son the following February.

The son was taken from her at birth, and she has been fighting for custody ever since.

The state and Hardy have been in a tug-of-war over the boy ever since. In late 2001 Hardy won a hearing and regained custody. But the DCFS won an appeal of that decision and placed the boy with foster parents.

In March, the appellare court ruled that cutting Hardy's parental rights would not be in the best interests of the child, finding that prosecutors had not offered enough evidence that Hardy was now negligent or abusive.

"Parental rights and responsibilities are of deep human importance and will not be lightly or easily terminated," the court said.

Two weeks later, after Randy Hardy took custody of his son, Madigan's office filed notice that it planned to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

During the legal wrangling, Sheryl Hardy had unlimited supervised time with her son, who was allowed to stay in the couple's new home in Roodhouse, about 25 miles from Jerseyville.