April 12, 2022

Court-Appointed Social Worker's Perspective on Walsh Family Intimidation

Court-Appointed Social Worker's Perspective on Walsh Family Intimidation
by Illustrator #2

Below is a summary of a court-appointed social worker whose job was to facilitate the visitation of Stephen Russell and his daughter, and the dramatic events that occurred at the Walsh family estate during a scheduled drop-off. Her full signed statement is in the PDF document below the summary.

Social Worker Account - Read and reported by Journalist #2

Note: After the social worker detailed her experience of being harassed and scared at the Walsh family estate, and gave her account of the disorganization of the court, she was fired from the case by the Westchester County Family Court.

by Journalist #2

In mid-September 2019, Stephen Russell called a social worker named Claudette LaMelle to set up a supervised visit with his daughter, Evie. This was the first Ms. LaMelle had heard about the visit – she hadn’t received a court order. The next day, she got a text from Tara Walsh, Evie’s mom, for the same reason. She still hadn’t received any official notification, but they made tentative plans for Ms. LaMelle to pick up Evie from her home in Chappaqua, New York, for a visit with Mr. Russell. The first visit would be that Saturday, September 21.

Later the same day, Ms. LaMelle got the court order, but it was missing the necessary signatures. Two more court orders followed, this time signed, so she got in touch with Evie’s parents to lock in plans for late afternoon Saturday, despite the poorly arranged paperwork by the court.  

When Ms. LaMelle arrived Saturday afternoon, she was let into the driveway through an electronic gate, where Evie’s grandfather met her. Ten minutes after the appointment was supposed to begin, Ms. Walsh and Evie arrived, “explaining they had been to a party in Harlem,” as Ms. LaMelle later wrote in her report. Evie’s mom changed her and packed a bag, and Ms. LaMelle left with the child.

It took Evie some time to warm up to her dad, given it had been a while since she’d seen him, but he’d brought his dog, Milly, which helped. Soon she was sitting in his lap, playing with toys and the dog. Ms. LaMelle wrote that “both dad and Evie seemed to have a happy time.” When it was time to go, Mr. Russell cleaned Evie up and changed her diaper. The plan was to drop Mr. Russell off, then take Evie back to her mom’s house, but Evie got upset when Mr. Russell got out of the car so Ms. LaMelle told him to climb back in and she’d drop him off after taking Evie home. This was better for Ms. LaMelle, too: it was dark by this point, and the area was badly lit. For Mr. Russell though, it wasn’t an option. He had a protection order regarding the Walsh family, so he said he’d come as far as the road outside the house.

Ms. LaMelle pulled up on the road outside the Walsh residence to let him out, and noticed a dark car, with its lights off and windows tinted, parked in the bushes. She assumed it was Evie’s grandfather coming to pick her up, as had been the plan, so she got Evie out of her car and walked toward the vehicle.

The window was rolled down slightly, so she could see the top of a man’s face, and another man in the passenger seat. One of them shouted “who are you?” and then asked who else was in the car. Startled, Ms. LaMelle took a step back. “Caught off guard by this person I replied ‘my husband’ out of fear,” she wrote. “Their voices were becoming more aggressive and menacing with each question and I was becoming more alarmed.” Shaken, she quickly went back to her car, set Evie on the front passenger seat, and drove toward the gate. Ms. LaMelle dropped Evie with Ms. Walsh, gave her a quick rundown of the visit and left, feeling “unnerved.”  

Mr. Russell was waiting for her on the road where she’d left him, and asked if she was okay. She wasn’t. She told him she’d “never experienced such shear [sic] fright as what [she] had just gone through.”

We can’t know for certain who was in the car, but we have a good idea they were connected to the Walsh family and likely related based on evidence provided. That night, Ms. Walsh texted Ms. LaMelle, asking who else had been in the car with her, and telling her that Mr. Russell wasn’t allowed on the property. Two days later, on Monday, Ms. Walsh’s attorney called. He told her Ms. Walsh had complained about the visit, and the fact that Evie’s dad was in the car for the dropoff. Ms. LaMelle tried to explain that he never set foot on the property, and that the court order didn’t say he wasn’t allowed in the car, but the attorney wasn’t interested in this explanation. She was told she had violated the court order and was off the case, despite the fact that she had not.

Bungled paperwork, intimidation of a woman alone in the dark carrying a child, getting fired off the case for following protocol, and an attempt to manufacture a chaotic situation in what should have been a basic pickup/dropoff; Chaos and fear is a reoccurring theme when it comes to the Walsh family and their allies in the family court system.

When asked for a follow-up comment on this, Ms. LaMelle replied that she was prohibited from commenting further at this time.

Read the full letter below: