Custody battle brewing over children orphaned after murder-suicide

Two children said to have been present when their father shot and killed their mother Jan. 15 at their Denham Springs-area home may be the subject of a custody battle between the mother’s sister and the parents of the father, who shot and killed himself at the home.

Marlon Reed Jr., 6, and Austin Reed, 3, were in the home at the time Marlon Reed Sr. shot and killed Aleria Cyrus Reed, according to a petition for custody of the children filed by Alicia Cyrus, Aleria Reed’s sister.

Alicia Cyrus, in her petition, says the children were traumatized by the shootings.

Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies have said it appeared Marlon Reed Sr. shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself.

The parents had been separated — with Aleria Reed, 35, claiming in various court documents that Marlon Reed Sr., 38, had been abusive to her and had threatened to kill her.

Marlon Reed Sr. was living at the Grand Turk Drive home with the couple’s two children. Aleria Reed was living with relatives in Baton Rouge.

Somehow, he lured her to the home on Jan. 15, according to Cyrus’ petition, which was filed in East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court. The petition does not elaborate on what he said to prompt her to go to the home.

Cyrus, in the petition, says she was in the home at the time of the shootings, but does not indicate if she was at the home before Aleria Reed arrived.

Cyrus took care of the children immediately following the shootings, her petition says.

Family Court Judge Annette M. Lassalle granted Cyrus custody of the children, as well as use of the Reed’s Grand Turk Drive home.

Cyrus’ attorney, Veronica Jones, declined to answer further questions Thursday about the petition.

But Frederick Reed, Marlon Reed Sr.’s father, said Thursday his family plans to file court motions to gain custody of the children.

“They’re still family,” Frederick Reed said.

Marlon and Aleria Reed were married but separated at the time of the shooting, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office has said.

Court records in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes show Aleria Reed took out two separate protective orders in December against her husband, alleging he had abused her.

Frederick Reed was terse about Aleria Reed’s allegations, saying only his son “was a good child.”

“Whatever they were going through, I’m sorry that it did happen,” he said. “In our sights, they had a great relationship. I don’t know what sparked it off.”

Aleria Reed’s petition for the Livingston Parish protective order, filed Dec. 20 in 21st Judicial District Court, claims her husband threatened her with physical harm, including a Dec. 14 threat to “destroy me and destroy my life.”

Aleria Reed also filed a petition for divorce on Dec. 23 in East Baton Rouge Parish that mentions threats of violence from her husband.

Court records in both parishes mention a Dec. 19 incident at a church when Marlon Reed Sr. allegedly walked in during a service, confronted his wife and told her he was going to take her personal property.

The couple had separated physically earlier that day. Aleria Reed, in her petition for custody filed Jan. 2 in East Baton Rouge Parish, said she left her husband because of his “extremely controlling and emotionally abusive behavior.”

Marlon Reed Sr. left the church with the pair’s two children but called his wife 10 minutes later to say she was welcome to come home but he “would continue controlling every aspect of my life,” she claimed in a Dec. 20 protective order petition filed in Livingston Parish.

Aleria Reed claimed she did not know where the children were after her husband took them from the church.

Aleria Reed had asked the East Baton Rouge Parish court for sole custody of the children, but was granted joint custody instead.

Aleria Reed said in her custody petition that she became concerned for her safety because of the threats Marlon Reed Sr. had made against her life and because he carried a loaded handgun at all times.

She was also concerned because his brother in August 2008 purportedly killed his girlfriend when she tried to end their relationship, according to her custody petition. Neither the brother nor the girlfriend are named in the petition.

Marlon Reed Sr. had said to his wife a year ago that he would “end it all” and commit suicide when she suggested they separate, she alleges in the custody petition.

Marlon Reed Sr. worked at Southern University from October 2006 to December 2007 in the university’s student media office. Reed helped with the student newspaper, the Southern Digest, and the university’s yearbook.

Reed also worked in Southern’s athletic department between 1999 and 2001 as an assistant sports information director and interim sports information director. He occasionally wrote for The Advocate as a freelance sportswriter.

Friends and family of Marlon Reed have said Reed was a laid-back person who spoke about how much he loved his family.

Aleria Reed worked at Amedisys. Her co-workers have said she was respected by her colleagues.