Judge Awards Custody of Baby Chuckie to Father’s Cousin
ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) _ A cousin won custody of a 2-year-old orphan who was the sole survivor of a boat explosion that could make him a millionaire.
Three other couples had sought custody of Charles Hoffman II, called ″Baby Chuckie″ during the dispute. The 1993 explosion killed his parents, Charles Hoffman and Marla Moss Hoffman, his maternal grandparents and his uncle.
Domestic Relations Judge David Basinski gave custody Monday to Patrice McMonigle of Golden, Colo. The decision, which came after 15 days of hearings, probably will be appealed.
″We are all absolutely thrilled that little Chuckie is coming to join us,″ McMonigle, a cousin of Chuckie’s father, said in a telephone interview. McMonigle is a psychologist; her husband is a minister.
The Hoffmans had no will. Their estate was valued at about $25,000, but lawyers say a wrongful death lawsuit might someday make Chuckie worth about $10 million.
Investigators believe gasoline fumes ignited, destroying the Hoffmans’ 33- foot cabin cruiser while it was docked on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. Chuckie was rescued from the burning boat.
Lawyers for Mrs. Hoffman’s estate in January sued the boat maker, Chris- Craft Corp., and the maker of the on-board generator, Onan Corp. The case is pending.
Chuckie lived with an uncle, William Moss, during the custody fight.
Moss had sought custody, as had Moss’ sister, Theresa Moss Hall, and Hoffman’s college friend and longtime business partner, Lawrence Morgan. They will be allowed to visit Chuckie.
Morgan’s lawyer, Hal Pollock, said he would recommend an appeal.
James Deery, a lawyer appointed to represent Chuckie’s interests, said Basinski was out of town Monday. Deery made the announcement but would not discuss the decision and said the judge’s opinion would not be made public.