I return now to the astonishing case of Dr. Christopher Brann, his ex-wife, Marcelle Guimaraes and their son, Nicolas (Nico). Readers will recall that Marcelle abducted Nico from Texas, where he’d lived all his life, to Brazil, her home country. Her parents, Carlos and Jemima, assisted in the abduction. They were apprehended in Florida, arrested and tried in Houston, where a jury found them guilty of aiding international kidnapping. They will be sentenced on August 2.
Since my last post on this case, I’ve received additional information that, predictably, reveals the case to be even more outrageous than I previously thought. Nico has been held in Brazil in clear violation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, a fact even the government of Brazil openly acknowledges. And yet there he remains, at least for now. Put simply, the courts of Brazil are in frank and open violation of the Convention to which Brazil and the U.S. are signatories.
But today I want to go back to the original divorce and custody case that took place in Houston, Texas. Brann and Guimaraes were married in February, 2008 and Nico was born in September of the same year. Christopher was, from the very beginning, a caring and devoted father, despite his demanding career as a practicing physician and professor of medicine. The couple employed a nanny, Ana Licon, who testified in the divorce and custody case about her day-to-day observations of Christopher’s and Marcelle’s parenting.
“every minute [Dr. Brann] had off . . . [where he] . . . was not working he would dedicate all that time with Nico.”
By comparison, when Marcelle was at home with Nico, it was Licon who cared for him. About Christopher’s relationship with his son, Licon testified that it was,
“[v]ery close, very intimate.” But when asked the same question about Nico’s relationship with Ms. Guimarães, she merely responded “no.”
Often, Marcelle picked fights with Christopher, during which Nico would cry, but he was never fearful of his father. Licon went on to testify that Marcelle
“did not nurture the child. She did not take care of him. She didn’t dedicate the time to do it with the child.”
Licon wasn’t the only one who preferred Christopher’s parenting to Marcelle’s. Court-appointed psychologist Dr. Edward Reitman did too. He described her as,
“an anxious, insecure, mercurial individual . . . [with] . . . little self-control insofar as her ability to deal with situations or individuals she cannot control…”
“not necessarily an emotionally compassionate . . . [mother] who displays feelings of security, or warmth in her interactions with her son . . . because she is so emotionally needy herself.”
By contrast, Reitman described Christopher this way:
“emotionally easy-going, loving, nurturing, [and a] very positive influence on his son’s life”… “I feel quite strongly that the nurturing, love and care that . . . [Nico] can obtain from his father would be a very positive constructive factor in his future emotional development.”
That was all during the divorce and custody case that Marcelle filed in September, 2012, when Nico was four. She filed in Harris County, Texas and made no mention of any form of abuse or domestic violence by Christopher. But clearly, with the testimony of the nanny and Dr. Reitman, the case wasn’t going as Marcelle had hoped.
She didn’t help her chances by, according to Licon, having various men spend overnights with her and consuming marijuana in the home with Nico.
Her response to her own shortcomings was to fire her lawyer, hire a new one and, for the first time, allege that Christopher had been violent toward her. The judge didn’t buy it. Indeed, even when Marcelle browbeat Christopher into signing a confession to DV – a statement that wasn’t true – the family court judge ignored it. It’s in fact not hard to conclude that the judge saw Marcelle for who she is and ruled accordingly.
In the end, the judge ruled that Marcelle’s claims were not only false, but were made “with malice” and granted the divorce, not on the basis of the usual boilerplate “irreconcilable differences,” but on the basis of “adultery” and “cruelty” on the part of Marcelle. Family court judges don’t use that language unless (a) there’s plenty of evidence to back it up and (b) they’re very unhappy with one litigant.
But by that time, Marcelle had already abducted Nico to Brazil. From here it looks like she knew she was losing the case and that her only hope of having Nico all to herself was to flee the country. The evidence makes it clear that she premeditated doing so, arranging in advance for school among other things.
She told Christopher that she wanted to go to Brazil so that Nico could see her family there. He agreed and the two entered into a written agreement for her to be gone about three weeks. She never intended to return, and so far hasn’t.
More on this next time.