This week's election was cruel to incumbents. Among the sitting Broward pols who are soon going to be looking for new jobs: Steven Feren, the jurist whose decisions in family court set the stage for Megan Everett to run off with her 2-year-old daughter, Lilly. After we published a long feature on the situation, Lilly's disappearance became a campaign issue, with critics lining up to take shots at Feren over the kidnapping. But unfortunately, the election doesn't change much: The girl is still missing.
When Robert Baumann walked into Feren's court last March, he came with a stack of photos and reams of evidence that his ex, Everett, had gone from an open-minded young woman to a paranoid, anti-government activist who lived in a house stocked with guns and ammo within easy reach of the baby.
Baumann, 26, was asking the court to make a bold move: give him full custody of his daughter. Courts across Florida -- across the country -- rarely remove children from their mothers unless the circumstances are extreme. Baumann felt Lilly's presence around live ammunition met the criteria.
Feren didn't. He awarded 50-50 custody. Six weeks later, in May, Everett ran away with her daughter. Baumann hasn't seen Lilly since.
Lack of boldness fits with Feren's style. The Miami Herald, in its endorsement of Feren's challenger, John Contini, wrote that the judge "does the minimum needed to get through the day -- neither high energy nor enterprising. The Sun Sentinel threw support behind Feren but referred to him as an "underwhelming favorite."
How exactly Baumann's situation played into the election is an open question. Whatever impact it may have had, Feren lost Tuesday. But in reality, Baumann has smacked against indifference outside the courtroom as well. In fact, Feren's attitude was pretty much par for the course when it came to authorities in this case. It took three days for the police to even begin the search for Lilly.
Since, police haven't exactly been busting down doors looking for the girl -- or at least tackling the search with the same urgency they might have shown if Baumann had been the one on the lam with his daughter. Everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that Lilly is safe because she's with her mom -- which is exactly the assumption Feren stood on in court, the exact assumption that teed up the kidnapping.
When New Times last spoke with Baumann last week, he was struggling to stay positive. No new news. Hopefully soon. Unfortunately, you can't vote out the other officials and law enforcement who've evinced the same lackadaisical attitude toward Lilly's disappearance. Would that you could. But Baumann deserves better. It's been 104 days since she was taken.
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