It's making news in Washington, New York, and on the Internet, but don't expect to see it in the Union-Tribune. It's the story of star U-T conservative political cartoonist Steve Kelley and his nasty court battle with Shelia Davis Lawrence over the fate of their love child.
Kelley and Lawrence, widow of multimillion-dollar Clinton fundraiser and Hotel del Coronado owner Larry Lawrence, got together after Lawrence's death in 1996. That was about the time Lawrence's body, which had been buried in Arlington National Cemetery, had to be exhumed and returned to San Diego when congressional Republicans discovered his purported wartime service in the Merchant Marine was a fraud.
After Larry's death, Kelley moved into Crown Manor, the lavish eight-bedroom mansion with 17 bathrooms on the Coronado beachfront that Larry had built for Shelia. Then, in April 1999, the couple had a son. But things did not go smoothly after that. Now, Shelia, 39, who dropped her married name and now goes by Davis, is duking it out in a Virginia court with Kelley, 42, over custody of the child. Trial is set for February 12.
"I want to share in the parenting responsibilities of my son. I do not want to be merely a visitor in his life," Kelley reportedly told the Washington Post, which noted that he is permitted to visit his child only every other weekend. "I am not in any way attacking Ms. Davis. She's my son's mother, and that relationship should be protected. At the same time, my son has a father, and that relationship should be recognized."
The Post reports that Shelia now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, according to Kelley, she moved against his wishes two weeks before the birth of their child, Hayden Kelley Davis. Back at home in San Diego, meanwhile, Kelley is suing Davis in superior court for "intentional infliction of emotional distress," alleging that separation from his son has "caused him immeasurable emotional distress and led to weight loss and bouts of acute depression." The lawsuit also alleges that Davis wanted to have an abortion until Kelley talked her out of it. Kelley, according to the suit, "pleaded with [Davis] not to terminate the pregnancy." Kelley says he "even suggested to Defendant that she could give the child to him, free of obligation after birth."
In the end, Kelley claims, Davis "conditioned the existence of her pregnancy on marriage and Plaintiff's signing an agreement to forfeit his parental rights to their child in the event of a divorce." Kelley says he agreed in order "to save his child's life." In December 1998, the complaint says, Davis had demanded Kelley sign a prenuptial agreement with a clause giving her custody in case of divorce and, when he refused, canceled their wedding.
Kelley also alleges that Davis tried to get him to sign a confidentiality agreement because, without it, "she was not assured of Plaintiff's silence about unethical behavior in which she had engaged during their time together." Even the child's name is the subject of dispute: Kelley says they agreed to Hayden Davis Kelley but that Shelia had changed it to Hayden Kelley Davis on the child's birth certificate. For her part, the Post reports, Virginia court filings by Davis claim that Kelley "insinuated himself into Ms. Davis's life at a particularly vulnerable time, that he ultimately tried to control her life, convinced her to have a child with him without proposing marriage, later tried to intimidate her into marriage -- but only if he could do so in a way that would give him access to her assets."