Judge: Sievers able to have contact with his children; long-term custody undecided

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FILE Photo of Mark Sievers mugshot from 2016 – Photo courtesy of Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Mark Sievers can continue to have contact with his two daughters as officials decide where they will be permanently placed, a Lee County judge determined Monday morning.

“At the heart of the matter is parental judgement and decision making, and the court must intervene and make a judgement in the best interest of the children,” Judge Lee A. Schreiber said.

The children, ages 9 and 11, were taken into the custody of the state Department of Children and Families following Sievers’ arrest on Friday. They are currently with a non-relative caregiver in Collier County.

A number of permanent placement options were discussed during Monday’s hearing, including maternal relatives who are planning to relocate to the area from Connecticut and a paternal grandparent currently in the region.

A maternal grandmother is planning to request custody, DCF officials said. The paternal grandparent was part of Sievers’ original care arrangements, but that person would require further investigation before determining if she would be a good fit, DCF officials said.

“There are many reasons, some foreseeable and some are not, that placement is disrupted,” Schreiber said. “I believe it is incumbent for us to look at all options.”

Mark Sievers, who attended the hearing in handcuffs while sporting a red jumpsuit, only whispered to a court-appointed attorney during the proceedings. He requested a court-appointed attorney for the duration of the custody hearings.

The children’s schooling was also discussed during the hearing. They were being homeschooled by a tutor before Sievers’ arrest, but their current caregiver wants to enroll them in a public school, DCF officials said.

The children may have a religious exception to being placed in public school, said DCF officials, who added that they have not been vaccinated.

Officials hope to reconnect the children with their tutor, and for the tutor to be able to provide a full-day of schooling.

After Monday’s hearing, Annie Lisa, Teresa Sievers’ sister, said the girls “are doing good.”

“So many people in their lives who love them,” she said. “So for now it’s a long process, there’s a lot of circumstances. We are just going to have to sit and be patient, and trust the process is going to put the girls where they need to be. It’s a very emotional time and for everybody, for everybody. We just ask that everybody keeps everyone under these circumstances right now in their prayers.”

Monday’s custody hearing comes two days after Sievers received a $4.45 million bond in his first court appearance on Saturday. He is facing second-degree murder charges for his alleged involvement in the planning and execution of a murder-for-hire plot against his wife, Dr. Teresa Sievers.

It is also the second time DCF has been involved in the murder case.

The agency tried to take custody of the children in December after released court documents detailed detectives’ suspicion of Mark Sievers’ involvement.

State officials feared the children were in “impending danger” due to concerns regarding Sievers’ reaction if he is arrested. They expressed worry over the children’s lack of contact with Teresa Sievers’ family, saying he “controls who they talk to and when.”

Mark Sievers’ attorney argued that any assumption of an arrest was speculative and questioned the validity of the documents because they were not signed or dated.

Schreiber then ruled in favor of Mark Sievers, describing the state’s case as one based on “probability and speculation.”

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