“It’s an unsettled household. Particularly his mother, who is very involved in church — as is his father and the rest of the family — but she drinks, and it’s, you know, it’s not a well-known fact, but she does drink, and oftentimes she would become just very depressed, and there is a lot of physical — a lot of physical violence that went on in the home between Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, and it was face-scratching and kicking each other and fighting, and knocking each other around.”
“I feel that if Mr. Fletcher had psychiatric help and got his problems straightened out that, you know, he should have his visitation rights, but right now I’m just trying to protect Nathan against him, and against his parents, because I don’t feel that his parents have a fit home for a child or anyone.”
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As a candidate for mayor, Nathan Fletcher speaks often of his “factory worker” roots and the humble surroundings he grew up in. His parents, he notes, didn’t graduate from college.
He doesn’t mention his grandparents.
Verlyn Lowell Fletcher, Randy Fletcher’s father and Nathan’s grandfather, was a fabled Nevada political functionary. A 1937 graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he had been chief executive of various cities, including St. Petersburg, Florida, and, later, Eureka, California.
In November 1964, he was abruptly fired as city manager of Las Vegas, a notoriously mobbed-up town that relied chiefly for its income on gambling and various forms of vice, including illicit drugs and prostitution. “The city hall shakeup, long a rumor, apparently stemmed from a no-confidence vote of the city commission,” said a United Press International dispatch of November 28, “but all concerned were close-mouthed about the development.”
The wire service noted: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 1963 crime report listed Las Vegas as having the highest per capita crime rate of any city in the nation.”
Verlyn Fletcher told reporters he had “no idea” why he had been fired. “As an employee of the city I would like to know why,” he was quoted as saying.
The incident quickly faded from national notice and didn’t seem to hurt Fletcher’s reputation in Nevada. The Nevada State Journal in Reno reported on December 13, 1964: “The fact [that] Verlyn L. Fletcher has been hired as ‘temporary acting personnel director’ of Humboldt County hasn’t stopped Carson City speculation he may become the new state personnel director.
“The state post was resigned by Irvin Gartner, who is taking a higher-salaried job in the East.
“Fletcher, who resigned his $22,500 job as Las Vegas city manager to avoid being fired, would be no stranger to Carson City. Before going to Las Vegas he was a state-government consultant, and favorably impressed top officials with his work.”
∗ ∗ ∗
As rocky as Sherrie Ann Morgan Fletcher’s marriage had been, her long post-divorce battle with her husband over which of them was most suited to have custody of Nathan was rockier still.
Initially, Sherrie had been granted custody of the boy, with Randy having regular visitation rights.
In early 1979, Randy returned to court and charged that Sherrie and Nathan had disappeared. That April, a judge ordered that custody of the boy be taken away from Sherrie and given to Randy.
According to an April 2, 1979, court filing by Randy’s attorney, Sherrie had left Carson City with Nathan in early January. As a result, Randy was “unable to visit with the minor child and that this lack of visitation with and contact with the minor child is not in the best interest of the minor child.”
Sherrie later testified that, after breaking off a relationship with Carson City sheriff’s deputy Duane Axt, one of Randy’s coworkers, she fled with Nathan to the small town of Smackover, Arkansas on January 9, where she met her second husband Danny Farley the next day. Sherrie told an Arkansas social worker, “I met Danny in January of this year through my sister Barbara Morgan.” They married on January 28. Asked whether the end of the relationship with Axt had anything to do with her leaving Carson City, Sherrie replied, “No, I left because of Nathan, and my main concern was for Nathan, not my relationship with Mr. Axt.”
Asked about the swiftness of the union with Farley, Sherrie said, “We met, you know, we met, and we fell in love, and we wanted to be married. We didn’t see any reason for waiting.” (Reached by phone in Arkansas, Danny Farley said he was too busy to talk, but would later make himself available to discuss his history with Nathan Fletcher. He failed to call back and did not respond to subsequent voicemail messages.)
Farley said in his 1979 testimony that he took an immediate liking to Nathan, who lived with the couple until that March, when Randy finally discovered where Sherrie was, and, armed with the Nevada court’s order, went to retrieve the child.
“I was in the back yard hanging out clothes,” Sherrie testified. “Nathan was just a few feet away from me. Nathan saw his father. I believe he was hiding behind a tree, and he saw his father, and I screamed, and I lunged for Nathan, at which time I fell down.
“Randy picked Nathan up and took off running, at which time I followed them screaming, and there was a car waiting in the middle of the road running, and Randy and Nathan got in the car.
“All this time Nathan was screaming, as well as when they got in the car and drove away.”
The battle was far from over.
∗ ∗ ∗
During her June 1979 testimony in her legal challenge to Randy’s custody of Nathan, Sherrie reeled off a litany of lies and half-truths she claimed her ex-husband had told not only to her but to his employers. Randy became a reserve deputy with the Carson City sheriff’s department in July 1976; he later was hired as a full-time deputy, she said. But, Sherrie claimed, to get that job, Randy had not disclosed the fact that he wore a glass eye.