Two years after a Bedford County teacher went missing, her former husband has been told he will not regain custody of their child.
The Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Tyler Mook and his parents, Jim and Kim Mook, who have been fighting for custody of Shelly Mook's daughter.
The Harris Middle School teacher was last seen at Tyler's home outside Shelbyville the afternoon of Feb. 28, 2011 as she dropped off their child, but her burned car was found that night near Murfreesboro. Authorities have stated Tyler is considered a "person of interest" in his ex-wife's disappearance.
Since Shelly vanished, the Mooks have sought to gain custody of the 8-year-old girl, who has been staying with her maternal grandmother, Debbie Sikora, in Pennsylvania.
In November, a state appeals court upheld the ruling of Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell, who found that Tyler "was unfit to parent the child," further stating Mook posed "a substantial risk of harm" to his daughter.
During a July 2011 custody hearing, "numerous witnesses testified to Father's history of illegal drug use, drug trafficking, violent behavior, and verbal and physical abuse towards Mother," court documents have said.
Appellate Judge Frank G. Clement Jr. wrote in his opinion last year that "the evidence clearly and convincingly demonstrated there was a substantial risk of harm" to Mook's child should she remain in his custody.
Clement ruled that Ms. Sikora "has established that she can provide a stable home," adding that her paternal grandparents, Jim and Kim, could also provide a stable home "if they were not in complete denial of Father's drug use and activities, the bad elements he regularly associates with, and his violent conduct."
Last month, Russell ruled it was not appropriate for Mook to resume "any form" of visitation with his daughter following accusations that Tyler and Kim had spoken to the girl about burning down Sikora's home, with the result being that the child would live with her father afterwards.
Russell had found the child's story credible after examining depositions from a Pennsylvania social worker, and the girl's counselor about the alleged arson plot, calling the testimony "remarkably consistent."
"(T)he magnitude of this tragedy cannot be overstated," Russell wrote in his opinion, referring to Shelly's disappearance, which investigators say is likely the result of foul play. Not only has the child lost her mother and has limited time with her father, the girl also had to move out of state, the judge stated.
A $20,000 reward remains in effect for information in the case. Call the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, (931) 684-3232, or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, (800) TBI-FIND.