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In October of 1979, Attorney Stephen Fagan picked up his two daughters from his ex-wife Barbara Kurth Waugh's apartment in North Adams, Massachusetts for a weekend visit and never returned. In April of 1998 after almost 20 years of car pools, homework, swim practices, bruised elbows, birthday parties and combing hair, the case broke open.
What it meant when he left was that Fagan would no longer be a presence in the community he lived in all his life and where he was involved in numerous charitable causes. He would no longer see friends and relatives that were so important to him, and would no longer practice law or teach at Harvard Law School. In the year he left, he was a member of the Massachusetts Bar Assoc., Federal Bar, Federal Court of Appeals, American Academy of Trial Lawyers, Mass., Trial Lawyers Assoc. et al. He was a staff attorney at the Cambridgeport Medical Center, an Instructor at Harvard Law School and Supervising Attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
What it meant was that he would now raise two infants by himself with the attendant anxiety and fear of an unknown future, his credentials of no use. What was at stake was the well being and lives of his daughters, and in this arena no compromise was possible. Fagan stated, "It was a moral imperative. If your children were in a burning house you'd risk all to save them."
The children were in custody of a mother who according to her neighbor's testimony was abusive and neglectful and put them in harms way. She was arrested for drunk driving on three occasions    including an incident where the children were in the car. Concerned neighbors    contacted Stephen Fagan as well as the police, and begged for intervention for the safety of the children noting that children were not being cared for or fed properly. Their mother showed the neighbors tickets, bragging that she was taking the children to California (refer to Helenmary Wilk Affidavit) to live with her new husband, to a fate uncertain.
This presented a profound ethical dilemma to Stephen Fagan. Ask yourself how far would you go under these circumstances in protecting the lives and safety of your children from obvious and severe dangers not properly considered by the court awarding custody, in their absence of full knowledge of the mother's condition and history.
After the courts failed the children as has happened too many times over the years, would you turn your back and say, "Well, that's how it goes," or would you take action? As Stephen Fagan said, "There were two people responsible for bringing these girls into the world, one was driving drunk and endangering their lives, and that left me to be the responsible party and assure their safety and nurturing. That is what I did and will forever stand by my actions. It was both the most difficult decision I ever made, as well as the most moral one."
This website provides documentation of the facts and events that transpired.
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