Boston Globe

Saturday, December 2, 1999

Trip to aid ailing sister leads to court battle

By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff
Boston Globe

As in many post-divorce disputes, the case of Larry Silvia v. Catherine Cyr is a bitter he-said-she-said tale of custody squabbles and visitation rights, and the portrait of Silvia the father varies from struggling and wistful to callous and stingy.

But the gap grew even wider recently when Silvia traveled to Taunton from Florida to donate a kidney to his sister - and ended up in jail on charges of missing $40,000 in child-support payments.

After two days behind bars, a series of court hearings, urgent pleas to a probate judge, and two last-minute scrambles for cash, Silvia checked into Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center earlier this week to undergo the transplant. Yesterday, he and his sister were recovering from the surgery, which appeared to be a success.

But the battle between Silvia and his ex-wife is far from over.

''I'm glad for his sister, and I commend the man for being that gracious to give his kidney to his sister,'' said Jim Killoran, Catherine Cyr's attorney. ''But he's also got three girls that he absolutely refuses to give support.''

Silvia's current wife, Vickie Silvia, says her husband owes only a fraction of what they say he does. The real Larry Silvia isn't a deadbeat dad, she said; he's the giving man in the hospital bed.

''I know he loves his kids, and he misses his kids, and he would want nothing more in this world than to have a relationship with his children,'' she said.

The ordeal began 14 months ago when Silvia's sister, Loriann Teixeira, 29, lost the use of her kidneys during a difficult birth. As she underwent dialysis last year, her six siblings took medical tests to see if they could donate one of their kidneys, said her husband, Joseph Teixeira, 29.

Larry Silvia was the only match. He agreed to the surgery immediately, Vickie Silvia said.

''He's just been very excited that he could do this for his sister,'' she said.

Silvia returned to his hometown last week and took a battery of tests, then spent Thanksgiving with his family. On Sunday, he attended Mass at a church where he knew he'd spot his three daughters, ages 17, 14, and 9. He'd barely seen them in the last few years.

''He knew they would be there. He wanted to see what they looked like,'' Vickie Silvia said. ''He just wanted to see how they'd grown.''

One of his daughters saw him as well, and told her mother. Cyr, who has remarried, quickly called her lawyer.

That afternoon, police showed up at the relative's house with an arrest warrant issued in June, when Silvia failed to show up for a court hearing, and took him to jail.

On Monday, at a court hearing in Fall River, Silvia argued that he had to be released so the operation, scheduled for yesterday, could go on. Cyr's attorney, Jim Killoran, told the court that Silvia was a risk to flee and should go to the hospital in police custody. The judge agreed.

But when the Bristol County sheriff's office heard the news, it immediately asked for a new hearing, said spokesman Bernie Sullivan.

Since Silvia was in their custody, he said, officials worried that they'd have to pay for the $60,000 operation out of their budget - and pick up the tab for transporting him to Boston and posting round-the-clock guards at his hospital door.

Killoran, however, argued that Loriann Teixeira's insurance should cover the cost of Silvia's surgery.

Disputed, too, is the amount Silvia owes in child support since the 1993 divorce. According to court records, a probate judge in June ordered him to pay $40,251.11. But Vickie Silvia says her husband has records that show he owes only $2,347, and that he only missed four months of payments when he was out of work.

Still, Joseph Teixeira knew that if nothing was resolved this week, his wife might not get her kidney. He struggled to round up money to cover some of the overdue payments, borrowing $3,900 from his church, a friend, and a friend of Silvia's.

He brought it to court for Tuesday's hearing and begged for his brother-in-law's release. The judge set Silvia's bond at $15,000; Teixeira again had to scrape up cash.

''I basically asked a priest, and he gave me $2,000'' to cover 10 percent of the bail, Joseph Teixeira said at the hospital yesterday afternoon, bleary-eyed and scruffy from too little sleep.

Now, he says he has to come up with $15,000 in collateral for Silvia's bond by Dec. 6.

Reached at home in Taunton yesterday, Catherine Cyr had little to say about the case. Her attorney says she'll seek the money her daughters are owed, but Cyr said she never wanted to block the transplant to get it.

''I have no problem with him giving a kidney,'' she said. ''That was never an issue.''

This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 12/02/99.

© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.