Edmonton Sun

Thursday, January 25, 2001

Grandmas fight over baby Sarah


A custody battle over baby Sarah is brewing after her paternal grandmother said yesterday she too wants to care for the newborn who was placed in a city foster home yesterday.

"We're very concerned for her welfare and I want to come to some kind of compromise over custody but the goal is to keep her with family, whoever it may be," said Katherine Pilkenton, from her Everett, Washington, home yesterday.

Pilkenton's son, Jeff Pilkenton, 32, was arrested at gunpoint with his pregnant girlfriend Janine Schindler, 34, outside a city gas station last Thursday, ending a two-week Canada-U.S. manhunt.

Schindler, a recovering crack addict, gave birth to five-pound, 15-ounce Sarah Nichole Pilkenton on Monday.

Dale Cottet is already the legal guardian of Schindler's daughters aged 15, 14 and two, including little Heather Parker who was allegedly abducted by her mother Jan. 5. City police reunited Heather with Cottet after she flew to Edmonton last Friday.

Cottet wants Sarah to grow up alongside her siblings in her Arlington, Washington, home. She and her husband also cared for their quadriplegic son for 10 years before he died at age 28 two years ago.

Cottet said yesterday the Pilkentons aren't ideal candidates for custody because Katherine works full-time and Schindler wants the baby to live with her sisters. But Katherine, a nurse, wonders if the Cottet home is best for Sarah.

"That's a lot of responsibility for Dale, who's already got the three girls," said the grandma, who lives 60 km from Cottet.

"I'm a nurse but I don't know why the reverse wouldn't work, with my husband caring for the child."

Katherine said her son has a juvenile record for petty crimes and was facing possession of cocaine charges when he fled north.

She's heartbroken Sarah's parents have stolen the infant's chance to be raised by its " true mom and dad ...

"It's too bad these two had to do the things they did but down deep they both feel bad and want what's best for the girls. All those kids love my son as a father but he's destroyed their lives this way," said Katherine.

"We hope Sarah can be part of all of our lives and that Jeffery and Janine will get themselves straightened out - but until that day comes they have no business having anything to do with any of the children."

Her son was "doing OK" when she last spoke to him Tuesday, but he's "absolutely convinced" he will never get to see his only child.

Schindler, pleading with officials to let him see the baby, was ushered back to jail Tuesday. Both parents claim they haven't touched drugs since October.

Sarah was given a clean bill of health yesterday before being transported to a local foster home where she will remain until Alberta and Washington authorities have determined just who will raise her.

Schindler and Pilkenton are to appear in a city courtroom on stolen property charges today when an extradition date may also be set.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.