Mo. court to appoint lawyer for Belcher baby

Mo. court to appoint lawyer for Belcher baby

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) A Missouri court will appoint a lawyer to protect the interests of the 4-month-old daughter of the late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher as her grandparents argue over custody.

Belcher fatally shot the child's mother, Kasandra Perkins, on Dec. 1 in their Kansas City home, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and killed himself in front of coaches and the team's general manager. Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, had been living with the couple for about two weeks and was in the home when her son killed Perkins.

Shepherd received temporary custody of Belcher's daughter, Zoey, soon after the shootings and filed a petition in mid-December asking to be appointed as Zoey's guardian and conservator of her estate, which could be worth millions of dollars.

Shepherd, of West Babylon, N.Y., also filed a second petition seeking to be named administrator of her son's estate.

Friday morning, she sat silently between her two attorneys in a Jackson County courtroom as probate commissioner Daniel Wheeler addressed the petitions.

Wheeler changed the status of the custody petition to ``contested'' because Zoey's maternal grandparents and other family members in Texas have filed a petition in that state to be Zoey's legal guardians.

He also ordered the appointment of a guardian ad litem - an attorney who represents the interests of minor children - and set a Dec. 25 hearing on Shepherd's petition to take over her son's estate.

The Ford Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday that Zoey is staying with relatives in Austin, Texas.

In addition to the well-being of the child, millions of dollars are at stake in the custody battle.

Zoey's estate or guardian will receive more than $1 million under terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, including $108,000 annually over the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and $52,000 each year until she turns 18. She can keep receiving that amount until she is 23 if she attends college.

A trust funded by the Hunt family, which owns the Chiefs, along with team coaches, players, employees and contributions from the public, will help care for the child. Also, Belcher's beneficiary will receive $600,000 in life insurance, plus $200,000 for each credited season - Belcher was in his fourth season at the time of his death - and $100,000 in a retirement account.

Shepherd's attorney, Gretchen Gold, declined to answer questions after the hearing and said her client didn't have any comments, either.

Zoey's maternal grandparents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, and other Texas relatives have filed a lawsuit seeking temporary custody of the girl, that her residence be in Tarrant County, Texas, and that a guardian ad litem be appointed.

A Fort Worth judge has scheduled a Jan. 22 hearing in that lawsuit. The judge will conduct a conference Jan. 17 with his Jackson County, Mo., counterpart and attorneys for Zoey's maternal and paternal grandparents to discuss whether Texas or Missouri has jurisdiction in the case.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.