Case Facts and Chronology
The following is a verifiable, chronological account of the San Diego Family Court case involving minor Damon Moelter. Names of professionals involved with this case have been shortened to first initial of last name. Documents that verify this account are listed below and are publicly accessible through the San Diego Family Court. Links to some documents are provided here. While all of these documents should be read and reviewed to provide a full understanding of Damon's case and situation key excerpts have been provided with pointers to the pages to expedite the review.
Documents referenced here:
- Voicemail messages left by Cindy Dumas for Mr. Moelter on his mobile phone (voice mail 1 and voice mail 2)
- Original transcript of Cindy Dumas’ taped interview of Damon and his brother Feb 24 2003
- Cindy Dumas’ amendments to the original transcript of the taped interview
- Excerpts from Children’s Hospital videotaped interview, March 4, 2003
- Discussion and Recommendations section of Custody Evaluation by Dr. M dated October 24, 2004
- Minors’ attorney Mr. C report and recommendations Nov 10, 2004
- Letter from Dr. G dated October 28, 2004
- 730 Family Psychological Evaluation by Dr. D presented to the Court, 6 July 2008
- Judge A Statement of Decision filed September 7, 2010
- Photograph of Ms. Dumas with Damon two months after Damon ran away
- Custody stipulation giving Ms. Dumas joint custody given to Mr. Moelter by Ms. Dumas two weeks after Damon ran away
- Blackmail letter left by Ms. Dumas at Mr. Moelter's home threatening to go to the media if he does not give her custody of Damon
- Online letters to Damon warning him about the danger of being sent to a torture camp if he got caught or went back to his father.
Mr. Moelter, Damon's father, and Cindy Dumas, Damon's mother, married in Maui, Hawaii in August 1990. Damon and his brothers were born between 1992 and 1996. Damon is the youngest.
In August 2000 Ms. Dumas left their home in Maui for Reno Nevada with the boys to study psychology at the University of Nevada. Mr. Moelter had to stay behind to continue work as a surveyor and to manage and prepare their Maui multi-tenant property for sale.
In December 2000 Ms. Dumas again moves with the boys to Salinas, California to attend college at San Jose State because the University of Nevada psychology program was impacted.
Go ahead. You want an ugly divorce – you’ve got one buddy…. You’re a fucking shit. You want this to be ugly? Okay! It’s ugly. Officially ugly! I hope you rot in hell.
At that time Mr. Moelter and Cindy Dumas shared joint legal and physical custody of their three boys. Damon was 4 1/2 and Damon’s brothers were 6 and 8.
In August 2001 Ms. Dumas, without communicating to Mr. Moelter, moved with the boys to San Diego, California to attend Alliant University to study psychology (the San Jose State psychology program was also impacted). Mr. Moelter was unable to locate Ms. Dumas and his sons for over a week. Ms. Dumas family denied any knowledge of Ms. Dumas' and his sons' whereabouts during this period.
Ms. Dumas left Damon and his brothers, 5, 7 and 9 at the time, alone at home while she attended classes at Alliant. A neighbor noticed this and intervened offering to care for the boys while she was at class.
After a year and a half of being separated from his sons, Mr. Moelter was able to move from Hawaii to San Diego in March 2002 having finally sold their Maui multi-tenant property. But he had to quit his surveyors job to do so. Previously Mr. Moelter had been making trips to California to visit with his sons.
Mr. Moelter and Ms. Dumas divorce was finalized in August 2002. Starting in October 2002 per the divorce decree visitation schedule the boys stayed with Mr. Moelter every other weekend and Wednesday afternoons from 3-6pm.
On Sunday February 23, 2003 Cindy Dumas taped the first of two interviews she conducted with Damon and his older brother the day after she had a conversation with them that led her to believe that Damon had been molested by his father (Ref 2, 3). Damon was 6 ½ at the time. This is the conversation on which Cindy Dumas based her allegation. There is no comment by either Ryan or Damon that suggests any molestation took place. During the incident in question Mr. Moelter was taking Damon, who was in the upper bunk, to the bathroom in the middle of the night because Damon was bed wetting. In doing so Mr. Moelter inadvertently scraped Damon’s back on the bunk’s metal railing.
On February 25, 2003 Ms. Dumas took her allegation to the San Diego police and child protective services (CPS). Both CPS and the police (Detective B) conducted independent investigations including a videotaped interview with Damon by Children’s Hospital about the alleged incident (March 4, 2003). During that interview Damon told the interviewer that "if I was at my father’s house, I would tell my father” if he were “touched in a bad way” (Ref. 4). The interviewer further asks if there was anything that his father had done to make Damon feel uncomfortable. Damon answered: “Yes, he did not fill up the jelly bean container.” Both CPS and the police closed their investigations a few days later with a finding of inconclusive [see Q&A Question #8]. Despite this finding Mr. Moelter was put on the California Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) by Detective B. Despite this finding Mr. Moelter was only allowed to see his sons under supervised visitation beginning on March 19, 2003. Mr. Moelter’s legal status with his sons was to be decided by the San Diego Family Court.
In May 2003, Ms. Dumas called the supervised visitation facility that Mr. Moelter used alleging that Mr. Moelter had had inappropriate contact with Damon in the presence of the supervisor during a recent visit. This allegation was rejected by the supervisor. As a result of Ms. Dumas’ allegation, after Mr. Moelter began unsupervised visitation in August of 2003, he hired a private supervisor, at significant cost, to be present during the weekend visits he spent with his sons to protect himself from further unfounded allegations by Ms. Dumas.
During this time, to help Damon and his brothers deal with the stress of the conflict between their parents the Court recommended that they participate in therapy with family therapist, Dr. G. The Court had also appointed Dr. M, a licensed psychologist, to investigate the molestation allegations and to do a family evaluation. Dr. M reported to the court on October 24, 2003. Some relevant excerpts from his Discussion/Recommendations include (Ref 5; pages 31, 32, 36):
Ms. Dumas….is presently dedicated to the belief that Mr. Eric Moelter has molested their youngest son Damon. There is absolutely no doubt in Ms. Dumas’ thinking regarding this issue, and she has made great efforts to convince this examiner, both through expert consultation, documentation…
…it concerns this examiner that Ms. Moelter’s [Dumas’] emotional stability can be so seriously effected that it may interfere with her ability to adequately care for the children.
There are no current issues regarding alienation and contamination, although it must be noted that Ms. Dumas’s belief system is so adamant and fixed that it is possible that she may develop a style of contamination in her communication with the children.
Mr. Moelter is cautioned to be aware of his circumstances regarding the allegations that have been made against him. It is quite evident that these allegations are active, and it is possible for these allegations to be re-initiated by Ms. Dumas given her fixed belief system. Mr. Moelter is cautioned to protect himself through use of common sense in his interactions with his children and those around him.
Ms. Dumas continued to press her initial allegation for a year and a half trying to get the police and CPS to act. On October 7, 2004, she prompted Damon to "disclose" the incident to his teacher in an attempt to re-involve the police and CPS. Detective B and CPS did investigate the allegation, reported this time by the teacher, and determined that, in fact, "there was nothing new in Damon's revelations to his teacher." (Ref 6; page 4).
On August 3, 2003 the family court judge appointed Mr. C as the minors’ attorney to represent Damon and his two older brothers during the custody hearings. Over the course of sixteen months, from August 3, 2003 to November 10, 2004, Mr. C conducted interviews with the boys, the boys’ teachers, principal and school nurse, Dr. M, Dr. G, CPS, Detective B, Ms. Dumas and Mr. Moelter. On November 4, 2004 Mr. C, visited the boys' school to interview the boys' teachers, nurse and principal. He is told that Damon's and his brother's behavior has improved because of Mr. Moelter's involvement with the boys since spring break 2004:
When I visited the school on March 18, 2004, the school officials [principal, vice principal, school nurse, school counselor, Damon's second and third grade teachers, Damon's brother's fifth grade teacher] expressed concern with both Damon and [his brother's] behavior. Both boys, while doing well academically, were behaving in a very immature fashion. Damon in particular was manifesting symptoms of severe stress. He routinely would curl himself up under the teacher's desk in a fetal position. On November 4, I was advised that these past immature behaviors are no longer present.....When I asked the school officials to what they attributed the significant improvement in the boys' overall behavior in class, they cited that the father had become much more involved in the boys' school after the spring break in 2004."
(Ref 6, page 7)
At the end of this sixteen month period Mr. C reported to the Court:
…all three boys’ relationship with their father has been substantially destroyed. The change in the boys’ demeanor and words they use to describe their father has changed dramatically for the worse [over the sixteen month period]. There is no doubt in my mind that this dramatic deterioration in the boys’ relationship with their father is a direct result of the mother’s obsession with the sexual molestation issues that first arose in early 2003. The mother continues to believe that the father molested Damon and that he is a clear and present danger to Damon and the other boys’ safety…I believe the evidence is clear that certainly nothing has occurred since the father had supervised visits and the clear weight of the previous evidence and the findings of all investigations have shown that there is not enough evidence to conclude that Damon was molested.
(Ref 6; pages 7, 8)
Dr. G in a written communication to Mr. C on October 28, 2004 stated that:
Throughout the course of the boys’ treatment, Ms. Dumas has insisted on focusing primarily on the alleged molest of her son Damon. Her attempt to direct my therapeutic approach toward a search for ‘Damon’s feelings’ was inappropriate and not the proper way to approach this young boy. The majority of the boys’ sessions revolved around what appeared to be Ms. Dumas’ attempts to send the boys into ‘therapy’ with an agenda, with a repeated discussions of old molest concerns and the new concern of wanting more time with their mother.
Mr. C, in his report dated November 10, 2004, recommended to the Court that it “remove the children from the mother and she have no contact with them for at least 90 days”, and then only weekly 2-hour supervised thereafter (Ref 6; page 9, 10). While that recommendation was followed by the Court it was too late. Ms. Dumas had on November 5, 2004, the day before the report was filed, abducted Damon and his brothers. Damon was 8. They were not to return for three years and three months, spending their time in complete isolation with Ms. Dumas, no school, no father, no friends, no sports, no healthcare.
In February 2008 Ms. Dumas returned the boys to San Diego on the promise that the DA would drop the abduction charges and re-investigate the charges of molest which had now expanded into thousands of incidents. Damon’s brothers were also now alleging that they had witnessed the alleged abuse. Because the boys were completely alienated against Mr. Moelter wanting nothing to do with him the Court placed them in the care of guardians. The guardians had sole physical custody of the boys and shared legal custody with Mr. Moelter. This set up provided a stable place for the boys to return to a life of normalcy while they learned to know, trust and love their father again. The Court appointed three minor's attorneys to represent each of the boys. After a few months the Court provided the boys limited supervised visitation with Ms. Dumas with the belief that it would be traumatic for the boys not to see their mother at all.
In May 2008 the new judge, Judge A, engaged Dr. D, a licensed psychologist, to conduct a Ref. 8, page 18):
It is nearly as traumatic with likely long-term negative emotional impact for children to believe that they or a sibling have been sexually abused by a parent if they have not, as it is if they had actually been molested. The mother, in her zeal to try and protect the children from the father’s abuse as she is convinced, has created an atmosphere and belief system with the children that is likely to make it extremely difficult for the children to successfully reunify with the father.
The mother appears sincere in her belief that the youngest child was molested, but it also appears that she has systematically ignored any evidence that might support a different conclusion, has taken the children into hiding for three years of their lives, and one could argue that any abuse of the children that has occurred has been at the hands of the mother in what appears to be her self-righteous zeal to shield the children from the perceived evils of the father and the court system.
In November 2008 Mr. Moelter and Damon's brothers began reunification therapy with the goal of getting them reacquainted with their father in a neutral and supportive setting. Mr. Moelter's wife joined them in December. Damon joined his brothers starting in January 2009 with Ms. Dumas joining in a few months after that. While the allegations were discussed during therapy there was never a goal to get Damon to recant.
In a letter to all of the custody parties the reunification therapist reported:
The children are resilient, competent, and doing well academically, as well as socially. The current therapy with the mother is intended to help her interact with the children in a way that will allow them to continue their growth and development. The children are willing to, and have pretty much, put the past behind them. Mr. Moelter seems to have done a good job of letting go of the allegations and hurt from the past. The goal of the current reunification with the mother would be for her to let go of the past in a way that allows this family to move forward. By this I mean it is important that Ms. Dumas be supportive of the boys' relationship with their father rather than encourage them to be fearful of him.
In May 2009 Ms. Dumas refused to participate further in the reunification therapy. In another letter the reunification therapist reported:
On May 7, 2009, the three boys were becoming increasingly anxious about their mother's behavior, and I attempted to talk to her about the flash points, the things that she would say that would stir up their anxiety. She felt blamed by me and said she was going to quit our sessions. [Damon's brother] pleaded with her to reconsider and all three boys insisted with their mother that we were making progress. They were happy that their parents were talking and able to interact with each other in the same room. On that meeting of May 7, the kids were crying and clinging to their mother and she said she would come to one more meeting if at that point Eric [Mr. Moelter] would sign a stipulated agreement so that the boys could live with her. She also said at that meeting in front of the boys that if the Court and the lawyers don't back off that she has organizations and media at her disposal to expose what was being done to her and she would bring us all down.
[at the last meeting on May 12] The mother was very dramatic saying goodbye to the boys that she would never see them again, and at one point when she was hugging Damon she said, 'I'm only doing this (quitting therapy/refusing supervised visits), because of what your dad did.'
For several months after that Ms. Dumas refused to participate in supervised visits with the boys stating that she shouldn't have to do supervised visits because she hadn't done anything wrong.
At this point I can assure the Court, that these three boys are in no way at risk when in their father's care. Damon will still say that he is afraid to be alone with his father, although his behavior indicates otherwise. He is spontaneous and interactive when he is with his father and very much enjoys the time he spends with him and his siblings. The issue right now is how to reunify the mother with these boys. Her anxiety and fear, particularly in regard to Damon, spills right out onto him, creating anxiety, fear, and the breathing tic that was observed by previous evaluators....At issue is how to invite the mother back into the process in a way that won't create risk to the children.
On July 15, 2010 after two and a half years of a second phase of hearings and additional review of the many new allegations of abuse Judge A made a Montenegro [final] ruling that Mr. Moelter be given sole legal and physical custody of Damon. Mr. Moelter had gained sole physical and legal custody of Damon’s brothers in October 2009. Judge A found that (Ref 9):
…after consideration of all the evidence presented to the court… there is no credible evidence that Father abused the minor child Damon.
The judge also found that:
Granting physical custody of Damon Moelter to Mother would be detrimental to the children as there would be a substantial danger to the child if he was in the primary care of the Mother. Mother would emotionally harm the children if they were in her custody.
Damon has spent every night with Father since June 8, 2010, voluntarily and knowing that the Claimants [guardians] were available should Damon so choose.
The judge allowed Ms. Dumas unsupervised visitation with the boys because “it is in the best interests of the children that they visit with their mother."
In the year that Damon was living full time under the care of his father (brothers and step-mother), June 2010 through July 2011, he thrived:
- attending school (straight A student),
- starring in school plays,
- taking regular Ninjutsu lessons,
- completing his first fantasy fiction novel,
- having friends including a girlfriend,
- attending tennis summer camp.
Damon's brothers, friends, and parents of friends can attest that Damon was developing a normal life of a teenager. Damon admitted in confidence to his oldest brother that he liked his life living with his brothers, father and step-mother, and that he felt safe. Damon's two older brothers are doing amazingly well. They are very well adjusted and attending college. Both have a great relationship with their father and step-mother. Their mother rarely contacts them. They are very upset and concerned that Damon is being kept from his life, especially school.
Damon has been sequestered away from family, friends, school, etc. for over a year. Damon has now escalated his allegation to rape and is alleging that his father is molesting other children. While Ms. Dumas claims to have no involvement in Damon’s disappearance and media activities:
- there is eyewitness evidence including photographs that Ms. Dumas was with Damon on two occasions one month and two months following Damon’s disappearance.
- After a visit with his mother shortly after Damon disappeared Mr. Moelter's middle son gave his father a custody stipulation giving Ms. Dumas joint custody saying that she said that Damon would not return unless Mr. Moetler signed it.
- On September 25 Ms. Dumas leaves a blackmail letter at Mr. Moelter's home threatening to go to the media if he does not agree to give her custody of Damon before the September 29 hearing
- In October 2011 these two letters to Damon appeared on the Saving Damon website on "Damon's Page" which was removed shortly thereafter.