A devastated family is pointing the finger at authorities over a murder-suicide that claimed the life of a 7-year-old girl and her father, who allegedly meant to punish his ex-wife through the gruesome act.
Police say Jeffrey Mancuso, 45, apparently beat his daughter, Kayden, to death with a barbell before taking his own life over the weekend in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Police have not yet revealed how Jeffrey Mancuso died.
Brian Sherlock, the girl’s stepfather, made the grisly discovery Monday morning. He had gone to Mancuso’s house when Mancuso failed to return the girl to her mother on Sunday, as he was required to do under a joint custody order put in place by a Pennsylvania judge.
Before he took his own life, Mancuso pinned a vengeful note to his daughter’s corpse, according to Kayden's relatives. “It said we got what we deserved and he had the final say—something along those lines,” Heather Giglio, the girl’s aunt, told the Inquirer.
"We knew this was gonna happen one day, we just prayed it wouldn't," Giglio said, explaining that Mancuso and Kayden’s mother, Kathryn, had been fighting a bitter, years-long custody battle over their daughter, during which Kathryn tried—but failed—to win full custody of Kayden.
“The system failed us. My sister fought for her custody for years and they didn't listen to us. They let him take her and now she's gone," Giglio told Eyewitness News 7, a local ABC affiliate.
Kayden’s godfather, Matthew Moffitt, amplified Giglio’s allegation: "I just wished that the police, the courts, that everybody would have done something to change this before it got to this point," Moffett told Eyewitness News 7.
After the couple split, Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger entered an interim order in October 2016 granting Kathryn primary custody of Kayden, while Mancuso was granted weekend visitation rights, records viewed by the Inquirer show.
But the two challenged the ruling repeatedly, with each alleging the other violated the order.
Then, last fall, Kathryn applied for a protection-from-abuse order. In her application, her lawyer wrote: “Kayden has told multiple family members that she didn’t feel safe with her dad, stating she thought he was dangerous because he assaulted her grandmother in front of her.”
Still, Judge Trager refused to terminate Mancuso’s visitation rights, though he did order new restrictions on Mancuso in light of his violent conduct, which he detailed in his order. Going forward, Mancuso would be allowed custody of Kayden only from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Judge Trager also warned Mancuso explicitly: “The Court cautions Father to be aware at all times of the potential risks that his behavior may have on Child’s future emotional and psychological well-being and her long-term relationship with Father and others as she matures.”
After Kayden was killed, Stephen Heckman, the court administrator for Bucks County, told the Inquirer that court rules would not allow Judge Trauger to comment on the case, but that he had reviewed “a great deal of material” and took it all into consideration when he made his decision.
“It is no consolation, but he did what he had to do as judge,” Heckman said.
That comment enraged family members. Jennifer Sherlock, the sister of Kayden’s step-father, wrote on Facebook: “I have the order, and I have all of Jeff's past violent history listed in it including the court psychologist saying she recommended supervised visits for Kayden. He did nothing to protect this child from a proven sociopath. Please help me get this Judge removed from the bench.”
Giglio, Kayden’s aunt, invited the public to attend Kayden’s funeral.
In a Facebook post she wrote “the public is asked and encouraged to come support my family on Saturday August 11 from 9:00am until 11:30am at Saint John's church located at 752 Big Oak road Morrisville Pa. 19067 with a mass to follow immediately starting at 11:30 am.”