Cornilous Pixley was a tiny thing when his mother, LaTrena, decided in 1996 that he would be better raised in the care of another. Given that she had pleaded guilty in 1993 to murdering what would have been Cornilous’ older sister and, three years later, been convicted on federal charges of credit-card fraud, it seemed a good idea. So, after consulting with social workers, she asked a Montgomery County police officer to care for Cornilous, who turns 4 years old this month. But only now, after three years of legal wrangling, did a Montgomery County judge agree to the arrangement.
The obstacle was, of course, LaTrena Pixley herself. She said her arrangement with Officer Laura Blankman was for temporary custody of the boy; once she got out of jail and a halfway house, Officer Blankman was to return him. But neither the officer nor, ultimately, the judge hearing the case thought giving him back was a good idea.
In her ruling this week, Circuit Court Judge Louise Scrivener awarded custody of Cornilous to Officer Blankman, and granted LaTrena Pixley one-day-a-week visitation rights. The judge also stipulated that Pixley and Officer Blankman continue attending family therapy sessions. Because of her history, the judge concluded, “Ms. Pixley’s right to raise her son is of secondary importance. The safety and well-being of this child is paramount.”
Indeed, Cornilous has been fortunate to remain in the care of someone who provides a stable and nurturing environment. A toddler in similar circumstances was not so lucky. In that case, a 2 year old, after living most of her life with a foster family, was returned to her biological mother. That was in December. Last week, Brianna Blackmond died of head injuries, and D.C. police have ruled the case a homicide. Like Cornilous’ caretaker, who filed for legal custody in 1997, Brianna’s legal guardian contested her return to her biological mom but to no avail.
Again, fortunately, in Cornilous’ case, which some supporters tried to make a cultural issue because Cornilous is black and Officer Blankman is white the legal turn of events leaves him in a caring home. To be sure, once Pixley gets her life in order, she is free to petition again for custody of Cornilous and, for that matter, Cornilous’ older brothers. At this moment, though, Pixley should be happy with the fact that the healthy baby boy to whom she gave birth after killing one of her own children remains a happy and healthy youngster.