Bad diet and religious fanaticism hurting kids, says father in custody battle

Steve Korris Sep. 27, 2007, 11:20am

Witnesses don't normally tell judges what makes common sense, but in a child custody trial father Tim Rallo pulled it off so smoothly that Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman backed him up.

When Rallo said he worried about his son's long term risk of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol, attorney Joe Hill objected on behalf of Rallo's former wife Kimberly VanScoyk.

"I think probably diabetes and heart disease and high cholesterol – I don't know that that's an expert opinion," Chapman said.

"It is common sense," Rallo said.

Rallo seeks primary custody of 9-year-old son Trevor and 6-year-old daughter Tara, claiming their physical and mental health requires a change.

"I have already made my objection," Hill said.

Chapman said, "All right, I have overruled it."

At trial Aug. 21, Rallo testified that VanScoyk considers Trevor a faith healer and takes him around to lay hands on sick people.

Rallo, who manages the Schnucks Supermarket pharmacy in East St. Louis, testified that people pay him good money to counsel them on diabetes.

Rallo said Trevor weighs 134 pounds.

"My son has ongoing weight issues," Rallo said. "I feel it's an addiction."

In 2005 a school nurse called him and said Trevor missed 25 days of school due to stomach ailments, Rallo said.

In 2006 he took Trevor to a dietitian and his mother got all over him about why he did it.

Rallo's attorney, David Fahrenkamp, asked him what he said to her.

"I said what do you mean, why am I doing this?," Rallo said. "You know, he's got a weight problem. You know, just look at him."

Fahrenkamp asked if Trevor's obesity was under control.

"He's not in the morbid obesity range now and since I filed for custody of my children obviously things have gotten better to some extent," he said.

Rallo said he had visitation every other weekend and every other Tuesday.

"We never eat fast food," he said. "He doesn't drink soda. I portion his meals according to how the dietitian has instructed me."

He said he serves the finest meats he can buy and home cooked vegetables.

He said he took six years of college with classes in biology, physiology, anatomy and chemistry.

Fahrenkamp asked him how Trevor's weight affected his opinion about Trevor's health.

Hill said he objected if Rallo was going to give a medical opinion.

Fahrenkamp asked Rallo if he observed anything other than obesity.

"The observation that I have made is that he cannot keep up with children his own age," Rallo said.

Fahrenkamp asked how he felt when he heard Trevor prayed over people or laid hands on them to heal them.

Rallo said he was scared.

"I felt like she was using him to meet some needs that she may have," Rallo said.

"She said Trevor has healing powers?" Rahrenkamp asked.

"Correct," Rallo said.

Fahrenkamp asked why he thought she would use Trevor.

"It sounds to me like she's got some sort of mission for my child to be some savior of a new race," Rallo said.

"I have a big fear that if custody doesn't go my way that the religious fanaticism is going to increase threefold."

Fahrenkamp asked how his daughter was doing and Rallo said, "Very active, energetic, pretty little girl, very intellectual, awesome kid."

He called her his shadow.

"Wherever dad goes, she goes," Rallo said.

He said his 12-year-old stepson Cody and Trevor are best buddies.

"When they get together they go and do stuff together," Rallo said.

He said that with custody, he could give them most of their meals instead of five or six meals a month.

"They don't have any clue on what it's like to be an adult or make adult decisions," Rallo said. "Children need structure."

Fahrenkamp asked if he had any other reasons to change custody.

"I'm really concerned about their mental well being," Rallo said.

Fahrenkamp asked if this arose recently.

"The religious fanaticism has gotten progressively worse," Rallo said.

He said after he filed for custody things calmed down.

"My biggest fear is if I lose this case everything goes back to the way it was," Rallo said.

"I'm a normal guy and I want my kids to be normal.

"They ain't normal."

For VanScoyk, Hill cross examined Rallo.

Hill asked him if he filed for custody after Hill sent him a letter calculating his child support. Rallo said that was correct.

Hill asked what Rallo meant by religious fanaticism.

"Twenty-eight hours a week at church I think is a little too excessive," Rallo said.

"She has spoken previously of seeing gold dust in the air from prayer.

"People supposedly, according to her, can pray to the extent where they can accumulate gold dust to some sort of extent.

"She has spoken of dreams where God has spoken to her.

"I believe it is affecting my children in their mental capacity that they actually think these sorts of things are achievable.

"The fact that she took my child to someone else's home who had cancer thinking that they would heal that person in also a little bit above and beyond what I call normal."

That brought the trial to a close for the day.

Chapman set it to resume Sept. 25, but when the day arrived a schedule conflict prompted him to cancel it.

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