By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
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By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
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According to court records from a subsequent custody hearing, Rasche had been living with a convicted child molester who regularly beat her two sons, sometimes with a large metal spoon. Emile also testified that his mother once punched Adrian, a hemophiliac, in the face and gave him a bloody nose. Brock, who had completed a nursing program and was working at San Francisco General Hospital, gained custody of the two boys.
"One big problem was solved," Brock says, glancing at photos of his beaming children that crowd the fireplace mantel. "But another one was really just beginning."
In San Francisco County Superior Court, Rasche was ordered to pay $984 a month in child support -- an amount based on her nurse's salary -- but it wasn't long before the payments stopped coming. By April 1994, the mother owed more than $11,000 in back child support. Brock found himself making frequent calls to caseworkers at the Family Support Bureau for help in collecting the back support. Brock tried to aid his own cause by dutifully supplying the bureau with new addresses and phone numbers whenever Rasche moved. It didn't do much good.
"You don't want somebody to bullshit you, but that's what happened at the District Attorney's Office," Brock says. "They'd put me on hold or pass me off to somebody else. It was a struggle just to get through to somebody. They just didn't seem to care all that much."
Chris Troxell, a San Francisco attorney who represented Brock at the custody hearing, was soon trying help his client navigate the Byzantine workings of the bureau and collect from Rasche. When caseworkers found out Brock had a lawyer, they were even less helpful.
"I had people tell me, 'You've got a lawyer; why don't you talk to him?' " Brock remembers.
Troxell and Brock thought they had a chance to finally collect when Rasche inherited a house in Michigan after her mother's death.
In early August 1994, Troxell called Paul Eyerly, the assistant district attorney overseeing Brock's case, and asked him to take immediate action to seize Rasche's share of her mother's estate. More than five weeks later, Troxell called Eyerly again, only to discover that nothing had been done. In fact, Eyerly said documents needed to pursue the case in Michigan -- including the original support order in the case -- were in storage and couldn't be found. Furious, Troxell went to the County Clerk's Office and got the files himself. Brock paid $150 per hour for Troxell's legwork.
"I do not understand why it took your office five weeks without success to do what I managed to do in three days," Troxell wrote Eyerly on Sept. 15. "Your help to Mr. Brock is essential, and he is depending upon you to take swift action to collect his child support arrears."
When Troxell called the bureau on Oct. 11, Eyerly still didn't know if a petition had been sent to Michigan to seize the inheritance or not. "Please remember that time is of the essence," Troxell wrote to Eyerly the same day to verify their phone conversation. "As I have explained, attaching this estate is probably the only sure means of clearing Ms. Rasche's child support arrearages to Mr. Brock."
Troxell says he made numerous calls to Eyerly after that but eventually gave up and tried unsuccessfully to make contact with the estate lawyer in Michigan.
"This case has just been a nightmare," Troxell says. "The Family Support Bureau assured me that they would pursue Dorothy Rasche's inheritance, and in the end they didn't do anything. The only other option Michael Brock had was to hire a lawyer in Michigan, and he simply couldn't afford to do that. To be honest, the whole thing makes me sick."
Rasche eventually appeared at a contempt hearing in San Francisco Superior Court in April 1995; she owed more than $21,000 in back child support. It's important to note, Troxell says, that Rasche's court-appointed lawyer -- not the Family Support Bureau -- persuaded her to show up. The judge took an unusual step: He ordered Rasche to sign over a check from the executor of her mother's will for her share of the inheritance. The money was to be held in trust until it was determined at a future hearing exactly how much money Rasche owed Brock.
The check for $39,680.55 bounced. A warrant was issued for Rasche, but she eluded arrest until the warrant expired. The last payment of any kind that Brock received came in February. It was for $80.
Eyerly maintains that he took "extraordinary measures" to seize Rasche's inheritance but was hamstrung by Michigan laws that made it impossible to collect.
"There is nothing we could have done to get the money," Eyerly says. "If we had failed to recover an inheritance in California, then Mr. Brock would have a legitimate gripe. But taking action in other states is extremely difficult and time-consuming. There are dozens of other cases that need immediate attention that have to be put off to work on a special case like this. In the end you have to prioritize and move on."
There is a problem with Eyerly's assertions. They seem to be just plain wrong. There is plenty Eyerly could have done, according to Joel Hott in the Michigan Office of Child Support. By filing a request to enforce the existing California support order in Michigan, Hott says, the San Francisco Family Support Bureau could have empowered the appropriate Michigan court to pursue Rasche's inheritance.