Originally created 12/19/97

Judge allows uncle to keep custody of children



VALDOSTA, Ga. -- A Superior Court judge is allowing four children to remain with their uncle while he decides who has jurisdiction over a custody case that led a 14-year-old girl to jump or fall from a moving car.

Ezzard Charles Sims of Huntsville, Ala., and Joann Williams of Valdosta are fighting over custody of their four children. Superior Court Judge Frank Horkan ruled Wednesday that the children will remain in the temporary custody of their mother's brother until the judge can establish whether the case is in Georgia's or Alabama's jurisdiction.

Talitha Sims, 14, died July 23 on Interstate 75 after she fell or jumped from her father's car as he was taking her and the four other children to Alabama.

After her death, Horkan granted temporary custody of Talitha's brothers and sisters, ages 8-12, to the uncle.

In March, a Madison County, Ala., court granted Sims custody of the five children after Ms. Williams failed to appear for a custody hearing. Ms. Williams said she was unaware of the hearing. At the time, the children were living with her in Valdosta.

Investigators said they did not know if Talitha jumped or fell from her father's fast-moving car, but they concluded she did not intend to die.

A state medical examiner's autopsy and subsequent investigation found the death was accidental.