- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A custody battle involving an Illinois woman who’s fighting a state agency’s decision to take away her three children is focusing on the 2003 drowning deaths of her three older children from previous relationships.

Last week, a hearing began in juvenile court in Cook County to determine whether the surviving children were abused or neglected, and it’s expected to continue Thursday, The Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1Oz3CAB ) reported. So far, much of the testimony has been a reprise of Amanda Hamm’s 2006 murder trial, in which she ultimately was convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to five years in prison.

Prosecutors in Cook County argue that Hamm, who’s now known as Amanda Ware, has continued to make poor decisions that could put the lives of her surviving children at risk.

“She has a pattern of choosing relationships that are abusive in different ways,” Assistant State’s Attorney Joan Pernecke said last week in court.

Ware and her husband, Leo, have been involved in several domestic disputes in which she’s accused him of abuse over the past several years, according to testimony last week.

The public guardian’s office, which is representing the interests of the couple’s three children, wants the judge to find the Wares guilty of abuse and neglect.

“There’s enough similarities here that we definitely feel the state will be able to sustain its burden,” Public Guardian Robert Harris said in an interview.

The Wares have been involved in a custody battle with the state Department of Children and Family Services since March 2014, when their infant son and two young daughters were removed from their care and placed with a paternal aunt in Chicago.

Attorney Lisa Dedmond, who’s representing Leo Ware, argued that the couple entered the child welfare system only because a doctor recognized Ware as the woman in the 2003 case when she was giving birth to her third child last year.

“There were no signs of abuse or neglect of the children” when a Department of Children and Family Services investigator went to the home on March 1, 2014, and removed the two girls, Dedmond said.

Prosecutors also have cited the couple’s histories of substance abuse and criminal convictions, as well as plans Amanda Ware disclosed in 1995 to kill herself by drowning in a lake. They argued that those suicide plans eventually served as the groundwork for her children’s drowning deaths in Clinton Lake in 2003.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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