MACCLENNY, Fla. -- Miranda Wilkerson will turn 4 in a couple of days, but right now her mother's family doesn't know if it will be there to wish her a happy birthday in person.
This month, a judge awarded custody to Miranda's father.
Miranda's mother, Trista Crews Coleman, was killed in a car wreck one month after Miranda was born. "She's been with me since she drew breath," said Rita Manning, Crews Coleman's mom and Miranda's grandmother.
Manning said the legal mess began in 1997 when Crews Coleman was 14 and met Donald Coleman, 38. "Next thing I know, I've got a grandchild on the way."
When Coleman and the teen married in May 1997, Manning signed off on it because of the baby on the way. "I signed for them to get married for that reason only."
But Coleman was arrested, and court records show he pleaded guilty to a sex crime involving a child under 16. He got probation and had to register as a sex offender. The Colemans had three children together, but in 2005 Manning said her daughter left him.
"She couldn't afford a divorce (because) she was supporting three kids on their own," she said.
Two months before Crews Coleman died, her husband filed for divorce; the petition noted that she was pregnant with another man's child.
According to her family, after Crews Coleman died, Coleman pushed for custody of Miranda when Manning tried to adopt her.
"Even though they were divorcing, even though he knows she was pregnant by another man, he still had to be notified," she said.
After months in court, Manning said a Baker County judge decided July 1 to give Coleman custody. "Does Miranda know what's going on?" said Manning. "Yes, I've told her; she gets hysterical."
Coleman, now a registered sex offender with a history of domestic violence and aggravated assault, is able to get custody of Miranda because he was still married to Crews Coleman at the time of Miranda's birth and is considered the legal father.
"Her whole world is here (so) how could a judge do that?" said Manning.
At Coleman's Georgia home, a woman answered the door and said Coleman wasn't there.
"I have a feeling why you are here," she said. "I'm not gonna say the word and get custody of a 4-year-old."
When asked why Coleman wanted Miranda, she did not respond. Coleman's attorney declined to comment, saying adoption cases are private.
Manning is not giving up. She tells Miranda, "Nana is doing everything she can so you don't got to leave me..and I won't let go."
Miranda's biological father told us he has hired an attorney to try and get Miranda out of the sex offender's home.
First Coast News