Longform

The Life We're Handed

Page 4 of 7

Two weeks earlier he had barged into her bedroom, drunk, and beaten her black and blue, she testified. Robbin Pittock's drinking and the violence were a long-standing pattern.

Under cross-examination she acknowledged trying to kick him. The black and blue marks in question appeared on her legs. Having noted that "it's nothing for him to just slap you up against the face," Jean acknowledged it had been ten years since such a thing had in fact happened.

Robbin Pittock admitted slapping his wife on the night in question. He also acknowledges an on-again, off-again drinking problem he claims is now firmly in the past. But he puts a different spin on the events of that October evening.

His rage was spurred by finding a secret diary of his wife's affair -- but also from his discovery of a checkbook, the guardianship checkbook that allowed Jean to draw money from Alexander's trust fund, he says. Robbin claims he had never before examined it.

Recalling the day Moe Tendrich approved the special-needs allowance and put Jean in charge of it, Robbin says: "Like any probate judge would, he specifically pointed at us and ordered us that the money would not be used to put food on the table or clothing on Alexander's back or a new car in the driveway."

The law jibes with Robbin Pittock's sense of things. Section 744.444 of the Florida statutes governs what a guardian can do without additional court approval. It specifically states that the law "does not authorize the guardian of a minor to expend funds for the ward's living expenses if one or both of the ward's parents are alive."

To Robbin Pittock something looked awry.
Photocopies of the checks indicate the first ones were written in the summer after the Costco settlement: $48.72 for a locksmith. $591.12 for American Express charge-card payments. A $1200 check written to Jean herself and deposited in the couple's joint checking account.

The next year the amounts increased: four checks totaling $6000 written in her name, the money again transferred into Jean and Robbin's account. $1760 to East-West Karate, the martial arts school run by Silva and attended by the children. A $960 check written to International Tours and Cruises, a travel agency.

By late 1994, when the couple split up, Jean had written checks totaling $2320 for vacations in North Carolina and Vermont, and $9454 in checks naming her as the recipient of the money. In addition there were numerous checks for groceries, cable TV, utility bills, dry cleaning, and miscellaneous drugstore expenses.

In court documents Jean claims Robbin was well aware of these expenditures. But after the breakup, without his direct knowledge, the money flow continued, according to a stream of canceled checks. Under the probate court's order, Jean wasn't required to make a formal accounting of the expenditures.

In 1995, $5800 in checks for cash, plus $1000 for credit-card payments. In 1996, nearly $4000 in personal checks, and more than $2500 in credit-card payments. 1997: Another $2403 for credit-card debt, $3640 in personal checks, and $2410 ostensibly written for Alexander's karate training. Plus $500 for a birthday dinner.

Mandy, the oldest daughter, briefly moved in with her mother in the early days of the divorce. Now 18 years old, she hasn't spoken with Jean in two years. What she saw in late 1994 and early 1995 was her mother transforming herself, she says. "She had a nanny watching us basically all the time. She was either working or she was out with Greg, taking trips to Hawaii all the time. She got a new car. She got her bellybutton pierced. She got breast implants. It was basically like seeing a whole new person. She became someone we didn't even recognize.

"After she moved in with Greg, they got this nice apartment. All this new furniture, all these new dishes, everything new. I'm wondering where all this money is coming from," Mandy says.

In court documents Jean offered her view of what Alexander's special-needs allowance is meant for: "It was always for the electric, American Express if we had spent too much that month and just could not afford to pay for it. That's what the trust fund was set up for."

Jean Pittock declined to be interviewed for this story. Before hanging up the phone on a recent afternoon, she offered this opinion: "Robbin is blowing smoke up yours. The man is mentally ill. He's an alcoholic. I have no love for that man."

Howard Kuker, who served as attorney for the guardianship for three years, says Pittock's accusation of his wife misspending his son's trust fund monies hasn't been resolved because Pittock hasn't yet submitted a formal objection to the probate court. "If Robbin has sufficient proof to show a mishandling, then why isn't he doing something about it? Maybe he needs to move on with his life."

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Sean Rowe